From 500,000 to 50 million.
Last year, after much ado and hype, VR finally launched for mainstream audiences, with the triple launches of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and the PlayStation VR. And yet, in spite of everyone and their mother in the industry screaming themselves hoarse telling us how VR was the future of gaming, these three headsets launched to an indifferent audience, failing to make any difference at retail whatsoever.
So how are we going to get from where we stand with mass market penetration of VR, to an eventual future where everyone is toting a VR headset? Will we even ever reach that point? Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney believes we will- but that it will take a while, and a couple of generations of VR hardware, for us to get there.
“I think you need one or two hardware generations of iteration to get to that point,” Sweeney said in an interview with Glixel. “The funny thing to realize about VR is that not a single unique hardware component has been designed for VR yet and shipped. All of the displays in HTC Vive, Oculus, and Sony’s platform are smartphone displays that have been repurposed for VR. All of the cameras are smartphone sensors. We’re reusing a lot of components that have been designed for some other purpose. It turns out they’re not nearly optimal for VR.
“I think as we see the next generation of VR hardware coming out, and the generation after that, you’re going to see these custom, purpose-built components for VR that dramatically improve the experience. I think that’s the point where you have hardware that’s suitable for the market for 200 million gamer VR devices.”
Sure, he has a point about all VR hardware at the moment not quite having been designed for VR from the ground up, but rather having been repurposed around it – just look at Sony refitting old Move controllers, and the old PlayStation Camera, for PSVR as an example – but is that really why VR has failed to take off so far? Could it not be that the format, which requires significant investment into the hardware, and the need to wear a bulky, isolating headset, is alienating, intimidating, and unappealing to most?
Then again, maybe that’s Sweeney’s point- that as we get actual VR hardware designed from the medium from the ground up, we’ll get something that’s friendlier to the average layperson.