ANALYSIS: Recent investments show Facebook, Google and others are aware that people need more than just technology to convince them about VR
The potential for Virtual Reality (VR) to change the way we learn, work and play is no secret. The technology, and Mark Zuckerberg’s surprise appearance, was arguably the story of Mobile World Congress (MWC) and it has the support of the industry’s biggest players.
Facebook, Google and Sony are but three of the companies looking to take VR mainstream and it appears that after years of talking, the tipping point for adoption is nigh. But having the technology in place is pointless if the content isn’t available.
It’s something the makers of Oculus, Daydream and PlayStation VR are acutely aware of.
And a few days earlier, Google showed off its first Daydream VR device at the launch of the Google Pixel smartphone. It was keen to stress it had created plenty of exclusive content and was working with the likes of Netfllix, HBO and games developers to ensure people had enough to do and see on the platform.
Content creators like Netflix have a vested interest in embracing the new technology. Delivering VR experiences will help drive subscription revenue, possibly at higher prices, and fend off the challenge from piracy.
Sky has been at the forefront of broadcasting technology since it arrived in the UK and has been experimenting with both 4K and VR, which will help it generate more income from its massive investments in sports, entertainment and movie rights.
Last week it launched the Sky VR app, which works with works with Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift, and offers a selection of sport, film and news clips, including Star Wars and David Beckham picking his three favourite goals. Sky has invested in VR firm Jaunt and has even set up its own VR studios.
“Interest in VR content is building, generating more excitement every day,” said Gary Davey, managing director of content at Sky. “We are just at the beginning of our VR journey at Sky, launching Sky VR studios earlier this year and we are already breaking new ground. Now comes the creative challenge of deploying this immersive experience with engaging story-telling. I am a big believer.”
Manchester City is also embracing VR as a way of engaging and attracting fans. The CityVR app is available from the Oculus store and provides users with a selection of highlights from last season’s matches, with multiple camera angles.
Sporting organisations are using technology to not only boost their fan base but also to give them the impression that they are actually at the stadium.
Getting it right
But perhaps there is no better example of how the entertainment industry can benefit from VR than pornography. Ever since the dawn of technology, porn creators have sought to embrace new innovations to further their business and in 2016 this is as important than ever as more people than ever access porn for free.
One company even offered Google Cardboard units with every subscription in a bid to drive adoption.
Getting the right content is imperative if VR’s potential as an entertainment platform is to be realised. Recent research from HIS suggests global spending on VR entertainment will reach $3.3 billion by 2020, but this will only be a fraction of what is possible.
“A $3.3 billion VR entertainment market by 2020 will represent less than 1 percent of overall entertainment spending worldwide,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst at IHS. “There is certainly more to be done in terms of premium content for VR platforms and it will take time to deliver on the potential of the technology.”
The majority of VR headsets in use will be smartphone-based, at least in the immediate term, because they are cheaper for consumers. This makes life more difficult for high end alternatives like PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but again, content will prove an advantage – at least in Sony’s case.
“Sony is well positioned to build an early lead in the high-end VR headset race because of its large addressable market of 53 million PS4s by the end of 2016, its lower total cost of ownership compared to the PC VR companies and its ability to get big franchises into VR,” added Harding-Rolls “With VR content and users strongly aligned with the games market, Sony already has in place many of the components necessary to deliver to this new VR entertainment segment at the expense of its competitors.”
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