Virtual reality gaming has such a history of being touted as the next big thing that people are likely not that surprised that much of the video game and the tech industry has embraced it so wholeheartedly.
But, unfortunately, this enthusiasm hasn’t exactly translated into booming sales on the consumer side of things and it is beginning to make some analysts ask worrying questions about the state of the segment.
CNet, for its part, thinks that consumer apathy for VR gaming and tech can probably be linked to the niche’s lack of a “killer app” – a video game title that is so compelling that people rush out to buy a VR headset to experience it.
Think Nintendo’s entire business model with their first-party titles: The Big N lures people to its new consoles, no matter how off-the-wall they may be, with promises of a revolutionary new Mario or Zelda experience.
For its part, VR needs its own Marios and Zeldas according to CNet.
But a killer app need not be an established series or even an iterative experience. Think Tetris for the original Game Boy or Minecraft for Windows PCs. Heck, even DOOM, for its part, was a killer app for PC gaming back in the day. What these titles have in common is that they break through the barrier of the video game’s industry and enter the popular consciousness.
Everyone knows what DOOM is about and who isn’t familiar with Tetris?
CNet’s Ian Sherr argues that people who should help catapult VR gaming to the stratosphere, hardcore gamers, are largely sitting on the sidelines because of the lack of this kind of game.
This lack of enthusiasm is leading to a more restrained approach to VR on the parts of some developers at just the time in its history when it needs games the most.
Venture Reality Fund general partner Tipatat Chennavasin said of the funding, “There has been a cool-down in general in terms of investment,” but that this doesn’t mean projects aren’t moving forward.
Indeed, for its part, Sony has outlined plans for next-gen VR headsets for its future home console. Being one of the pillars of home console VR, Sony’s support for it beyond the current PSVR unit is a vote of confidence in the future of the segment if anything. Microsoft, meanwhile, held back with this generation but has teased it as a possibility for their next system.
And, when it comes to the PC space, there are a ton of different choices which make it hands down the most competitive portion of the VR gaming niche.
But, as killer apps sometimes prove, just because something helps sell units initially doesn’t mean it helps construct an ecosystem that will provide perpetual support for those sales.
What VR gaming probably needs more than anything is a larger selection of games to choose from and more devs getting in on the technology with wildly divergent and creative ideas. Game-changing titles are never planned as such and the “killer app” for VR gaming will probably emerge organically as more games hit the market.