Let The Great VR Wars Begin
Many things have been unraveled during GDC 2017 with Oculus making headlines for the release of Robo Recall and the $200 price slash on the Oculus Rift bundle. The company has made it possible for more of the general public to purchase their headsets at a more affordable price of $600. While that isn’t the lowest of numbers, it certainly is inching towards the cost of today’s gaming consoles like the Xbox One S and PS4 Pro.
Additionally, LG looks to enter the great VR race with the unveiling of their PC-based VR headset powered by Valve’s SteamVR. The two companies have collaborated in creating yet another high-performance VR headset. While nothing is finalized for the product, they’ll begin shipping the units to select partners at the end of the week. Valve first collaborated with HTC in releasing the Vive and is opening up their umbrella to bring in another high-tech manufacturer.
HTC hasn’t released any information indicating that they’ll be following in Oculus’s footstep of decreasing their price. HTC believes that they offer a high-end product at a reasonable price with the introduction of Viveport and Vive Tracker into their ecosystem. HTC was the first company to release a room-scale tracking system with their VR headset, along with motion tracked controllers. Oculus followed pursuit and released the Oculus Touch only recently.
While all of these companies may say they are on good terms with one another, we know that only one thing is truly of importance, sales. Currently, there are a decent amount of selections to choose from when picking a VR headset. The Rift is a good choice and so is the Vive for a PC-based VR headset. But those aren’t the only current options available. If you go down a tier, you’ll find Sony with the successful PlayStation VR headset.
Recently, it’s been indicated that they have sold around a million of their PS VR headsets in a span of four months. Those are bigger numbers than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive combined. This is due to several factors. For one, it’s sold at a more affordable price point of $399. This allows them to have a bigger audience to sell to. Two, it doesn’t require an expensive PC to operate the device. You can purchase a PS4 to run a PS VR headset. Another big reason is that many gamers already own a PS4. It’s been out for years and has a large community around the platform. The modern VR era has only begun last year so there is a lot catching up to do to compete with the console world.
A tier below PlayStation VR are the mobile VR headset options. You have Google with their Daydream View headsets, You have Samsung with their Gear VR headsets, and you also have other manufacturers with their own OEM headsets. There are so many options in this tier where it’s easy to enter the VR market with affordable mobile VR headset options.
Not only that but hundreds of millions of people around the world already have the main component to operate a mobile VR headset, which is their smartphone. For Google, there are a specified number of smartphones that can be used to power their Daydream View headset. The same is the case with Samsung and the Gear VR headset. These individuals can simply enter the VR world with a more affordable mobile VR headset option.
And the list doesn’t stop here for tiers and options. In the upcoming months and years, we are about to see more solutions for VR. For starters, Microsoft just made an announcement yesterday indicating that they are ready to ship their mixed reality dev kits to select partners starting next month. The company looks to aggressively enter the VR race by offering the Windows platform as the VR standard. Microsoft has partnered up with the likes of Acer, ASUS, HP, Lenovo, and 3Glasses to release a variety of headsets. The listed companies will all be coming out with their own version. And these companies all have deep pockets and big capital. In fact, some of these companies are currently bigger than HTC and Oculus, which is quite surprising.
Microsoft will also be unveiling a new generation for consoles with Xbox Project Scorpio. This future gaming console will be strong and capable of rendering graphics at a high frame-rate for VR. While nothing is specified, Microsoft announced that Project Scorpio will be integrated with new technology to enhance user experience with immersive solutions like VR and MR. Microsoft already has an immense user base gaming on their Xbox consoles. This future system will definitely attract their loyal fan base to adopt the modern solution and standardization. This leads to the next component of the upcoming VR wars, platform standardization.
A company called the Khronos Group is looking to standardize the VR space with an open API cross-platform called OpenXR. Khronos wants to bridge the market where developers can easily create VR experiences for all major VR headsets. They’ve already entered a partnership with most of the listed companies besides HTC and Microsoft. HTC has indicated that they are in talks with Khronos in joining the unified front. But Microsoft looks to align in their own path with Windows. Microsoft has already corroborated with other tech giants in creating their own movement in the space. This can become problematic for developers in the foreseeable future, but as indicated, it’s all about sales.
There are so many options available today for VR headsets and it only looks to thicken from this point forward. There will be more options for every tier and the competition will only thicken with these tech giants entering the VR race. Only a few companies will prevail in this VR market if history is used as an indication.
If you look at the current smartphone market, it’s primarily dominated by Apple and Samsung. In prior years when smartphones were first introduced, there were multiple famous companies such as Blackberry, Motorola, and Nokia. But they are no longer a factor in the mobile industry. The same could be said in the console world. Currently, it’s dominated by PlayStation and Xbox; maybe Nintendo will be thrown into the mix again with the Switch. But prior to that we had Sega, Atari, and others that were relevant to the industry. But these companies no longer serve as a hardware platform in the modern world.
A lot of these companies entering the new market will not survive the test of time. Many will fall as there are too many players trying to enter the race. So for everyone interested in this industry, you should gear up for the oncoming onslaught of crazy news and developments. We can certainly say that we’re about to enter the great VR Wars.