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Is the 12-month wait for Oculus Rift a disaster or an opportunity for VR?

The Mavens debate when virtual reality will dawn
Is the 12-month wait for Oculus Rift a disaster or an opportunity for VR?
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Following on from the drawn out Apple Watch announcement to pre-order to delayed shipping process, Oculus has announced it will announce more details about its Oculus Rift VR headset later in 2015, and it won't now ship to consumers until Q1 2016.

So, this week's question is:

Will the 12 month wait for Oculus Rift suck the excitement out of the VR gaming sector?

Or will the gap provide opportunities for the likes of the Google Cardboard ecosystem to flourish?

Harry Holmwood

Harry Holmwood

CEO at Marvelous Europe

Everything takes time - the first microconsoles failed for pretty foreseeable reasons - mainly that they were gaming-only devices, which are bought by gamers, who already had better TV gaming devices.

That doesn't mean the concept is dead forever - I recently bought an Amazon Fire TV stick for our second TV and, while I have yet to play a game on it, the fact that I could do so opens up that possibility for the future.

Few people buy mobiles for gaming, but they will happily play on the mobiles they have.

Regarding VR - I'm delighted that there's a definite date, and that it's a way off.

“My biggest fear with VR is that it launches with substandard hardware and software, and the market becomes damaged for another generation.”
Harry Holmwood

My biggest fear with VR is that it launches with substandard hardware and software, and the market becomes damaged for another generation.

VR's not a mobile proposition though. Mobile, to me, means play anywhere. VR will remain primarily a sit down experience, to be played in the safety of your own home. Nobody's going to pop the Oculus on on a commuter train, or while waiting for their cappuccino.

Similarly, the processing power and tracking techniques required to make VR a compelling experience mean that, for the next few years at least, VR isn't going to be driven by mobile phones.

Longer term, though, the excitement is just starting. We're bound to see a few false starts and consumer disappointments in the coming years, and VR will be decried as 'the new 3D TV' by some as a result.

But the tech is finally at the stage where it is starting to deliver the kind of experiences we dreamed of in the nineties.

Ten years from now, with super-powerful devices and tiny form factors it's going to be pretty amazing.

William D. Volk

William D. Volk

Chief Futurist at Forward Reality

I think we're just starting to see decent micro-consoles. As mentioned, Fire TV is particularly good. The apps such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO GO work as advertised and many of the games play well (Crossy Road being my favorite).

“I don't see micro-consoles as a failure.”
William D. Volk

Amazon's Appstore is a big part of this. The shopping experience is excellent, on a par with Apple's App Store, due to the tie into the Amazon payment ecosystem.

I know of micro-consoles in development with performance on a par with game consoles and support for 4K resolution TV. So I don't see micro-consoles as a failure.

As to VR, it's been hyped since the days of Dactyl Nightmare in 1991. Oculus Rift is a decent device, and the experience ... particularly if you have a 'device' like a rifle that is traced in 3 dimensions, can be satisfying.

It just needs "must have" game titles, most of what is out there isn't that inspiring.

Amazon Fire TV - 'decent' according to Volk
Amazon Fire TV - 'decent' according to Volk

Microsoft's HoloLens is an impressive augmented reality system that could be the direction where this goes.

Perhaps Google Cardboard will evolve into a more polished head mount for popular mobile devices; it is quite clever.

Eros Resmini

Eros Resmini

Head of Marketing at The Mini Fund

I firmly believe the excitement for VR or the "the dominance of the smartphone" has nothing to do with the hardware.

Both are dependent on the first great game(s) or experience(s) that launch on the hardware.

Once that happens the masses want it. Until then, the excitement around VR (or in the past around smartphones) is based on super early adopters, so by nature it will not have a major impact.

I'm not sure I agree with Harry about VR being a "mobile proposition" or not, but that might be because I'm totally nerding out on Ready Player One right now.

Christopher Kassulke

Christopher Kassulke

CEO at HandyGames

Oculus Rift is the hardcore version of VR but what fascinate me is Google's Cardboard.

It's just a simple solution that works with the smartphone you have in your pocket. No big investment has to be done by consumers.

“Cardboard is opening up a mass market which Oculus will not achieve.”
Christopher Kassulke

Cardboard is opening up a mass market which Oculus will not achieve. Google also already has the platform to distribute such content very smoothly.

We have invested heavily into VR since Cardboard came out and our first games will launch soon.

The first field tests with people on the streets are amazing. The WOW-Effect is huge if you give a Cardboard to a non-gamer.

They don't like the Oculus Rift as it's too techie or as they call it a "Freak Device". I am sure we will see a mass market by Cardboard and Cardboard-a-like products in the near future.

The funny thing is our titles will also be available on iPhones so it [Cardboard] is not a pure Android-focused product.

It's a pizza box and it makes VR fun. Evolution can be so simple. It's easy to make something complicated but complicated to make it easy. Google did an outstanding job by introducing such a simple concept to the developer!

You can make Google's Cardboard from a pizza box (sort of)
You can make Google's Cardboard from a pizza box (sort of)

Also, besides games, we see a huge market in industry 4.0 so for example we have developed VR topics for architects and logistics. Amazing new stuff can be done by us the developers. Also in the healthcare and fitness sector we can produce new innovative products.

So as you can imagine, I am a big fan of Cardboard!

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

Like Chris I find the Cardboard really exciting as an idea: perhaps not in its current format but the idea of a simple cheap almost disposable VR device is quite attractive.

I quite liked the ViSR guys with their much more comfortable art board creation and hope that they are able to come back after their failed Kickstarter with another option (I still want a portable/foldable headset guys!).


What's telling to me though is how despite all of the delays, at every show I go to where there is VR, there are queues. There are still queues to experience the initial content.

We all know that VR has motion sickness issues for some but the vastly improved latency between movement and screen significantly reduces that.

The use of some fixed frame of reference in the screen (such as an artificial nose - apparently that really helps) also significantly reduces the issues.

“I suspect that only Oculus and Sony have the resources or distribution channels to make this work at scale right now”
Oscar Clark

That's how I think this time delay will most benefit the market. It will allow developers more time to explore the possibilities and test human reactions. The queues to me shows that the experience is something people are prepared to wait for.

Of course it also means that rival devices might come and pip Oculus or Morpheus at the post. Lower cost, more accessible creations are great, but the real key will be distribution.

I suspect that only Oculus and Sony have the resources or distribution channels to make this work at scale right now although I wouldn't discount Steam.

The other key player could well be Microsoft. HoloLens sounds really interesting with the AR and VR combined but I've yet to try it in person and to compare it with its rivals; and I don't know whether to believe that it will come out before the others.

Regarding the last question - this has nothing to do with smartphone gaming. The mode of use (even when considering cardboard or Samsung's Gear VR) is separate from what we do with our normal smartphone behaviour.

VR is closer to a console experience. Something I do when I am safe, comfortable and not going to be disturbed.

HoloLens - a step beyond VR
HoloLens - a step beyond VR

VR will be something we do largely in private as it leaves us vulnerable to mockery - with the exception of games where that is the point like 'Keep talking and no-one dies'.

I think consoles are the ones which will be cannibalised by VR or perhaps more accurately VR will be the next gen console experience.

There is a sense of presence and a magical ability to feel part of the game with VR. which transforms our ability to suspend disbelief and that's worth the wait.

Christopher Kassulke

Christopher Kassulke

CEO at HandyGames

Oscar, I can tell you our VR games will have the same playing ground as smartphone games... be surprised!

HoloLens will be awesome but an even more geek product as Oculus Rift.

What we need is a mass market product that everyone can afford and will use. And I've already found a lot of great new products similar to Cardboard, which are just more handy.

It will be a very innovative year ahead in VR.

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

I'm sure if anyone can make VR experiences as snacking content, you guys will always deliver.

However, my point was more about the incident of engagement. When we choose a phone game the optimum cycle is short, e.g. 1.5 mins; where as choosing a tablet game would be something like a 10 min experience… even if in practice we play for 30 mins on both titles.

VR will have a longer incident of play not least as it requires considerably more effort.

  • I have to be near my goggles.
  • I have to be willing to get them out of their bag/off their shelf/etc.
  • I have to be willing to put them on.
  • I have to know the game I'm about to play. I have to have that game ready.

That all takes a lot more effort than just running a quick game of Candy Crush.

This stuff matters. I remember Steve Stopps talking about Kumo Deliveries having to convert to an entirely portrait mode of play because in testing players showed that they couldn't be bothered to simply turn their phones to landscape mode.

VR has to entice us to have all of the necessary steps ready before we choose to play. That's fine, that's normal, but we have to take it into account with our strategy.

I don't disagree on the other points though.

Christopher Kassulke

Christopher Kassulke

CEO at HandyGames

We aren't trying out 'snack' games with a short playing period but what we experience is that you want to dive into VR for 10-15 minutes.

“I would love to see more companies joining in as the audience and the consumers are there.”
Christopher Kassulke

We just need to experiment more and do way more field tests.

I would love to see more companies joining in as the audience and the consumers are there. They have no problem spending 20 Euros for a 'pizza box' and they have no problem spending money on the content.

It's again a different target group but we are working, as mentioned, on an experience with and without this box.

Just be more patient Oscar, or visit us again and test it out yourself!

I want more and more innovation, my friend. It's up to the game developers to show the new revolution beside smartwatch games ;)

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

Totally agree - and I'm very excited too.

You also made a really good point (I forget at which conference) that (in my words) we are in the phase of the Earl Adopter market who are willing to pay upfront for experiences which innovate.

Later on when the market scales (assuming VR will scale, which I suspect is less clear) then options like F2P become possible.

Dan Gray

Dan Gray

Chief Creative Officer at Ustwo games

Having worked on VR for a year now it's clear developers are approaching this from a variety of angles.

For our own philosophy, we mainly care about what the best experience a player can have is, and we don't feel Cardboard delivers that right now.

Ustwo's <em>Land's End</em> demonstrates the potential of high-end VR
Ustwo's Land's End demonstrates the potential of high-end VR

Yes, it's a cheap and accessible solution, but we want players to have the best experience, not the cheapest.

“We want players to have the best experience, not the cheapest.”
Dan Gray

You might argue that if we want "best" then desktop Rift would be the way to go, but it doesn't offer anywhere near the virility of a mobile device.

Journalists and enthusiasts are going to have a Gear VR with them and over the last year Land's End [ustwo's first VR game] has been shared in restaurants, pubs, bars and studios, all with the exact people who'll be buying and talking about it from the get go: Influencers.

It gives us a great middle ground of providing quality hardware for tracking, but also sharing.

Everyone's trying to figure out exactly what that defining experience is, and it's all massively exciting that we're on this crazy train ride to the frontier together.