Virtual Reality: Seeing Into the Future

PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR

Virtual reality (VR) is an up-and-coming technological breakthrough that is allowing us, for the first time to be truly immersed in a different world. Phone and video game companies have each published their own version of a virtual reality device to use with their own cell phones or consoles. This article will primarily look at two of these, the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.

The HTC Vive is a VR headset that came out in April of last year and has sold over 420,000 units so far. HTC is a prominent cell phone company and was one of the first to release a VR headset. The most popular game, or “experience” for the Vive is Job Simulator, where the player is placed in an office-like environment and must work to figure out their day. This game is popular on many VR consoles, but over 78,000 people have played it on Vive, according to Fortune.com. Other games increasing in popularity are virtual reality casino games, including live casino games with fellow online VR players, from poker to online slot machines.

PlayStation VR is an attachment for Sony’s PlayStation 4 console. At $499.99, it is the least costly of any of the VR machines out there. Of course, that is after you fork out $400 for the console itself. Outselling both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the PlayStation VR has sold 750,000 units since its release. Launched last October, Sony has around 50 games and demos available, including Resident Evil 7, Batman: Arkham VR, and an exclusive VR mission for the popular game Star Wars: Battlefront. 

The Battlefront VR mission allows the player to climb into the cockpit of an X-wing and fight Imperial TIE fighters. This mission will also be free to players who already bought the game and who have the headset. DICE, the developers of Battlefront, worked closely with Criterion, to develop an authentic VR experience.

With the advent of VR and many of the devices in their first generations, are VR machines profitable for companies that want to expand into the market? In January, Samsung announced they had sold 5 million Gear VR headsets, outselling all the other VR headsets combined. Factors for Samsung's success include the fact that it has been on the shelves longest, and has one of the lowest price points at $99.99, second only to the $79 Google Daydream View. 

A new report from market research firm Super Data estimates that 6.3 million VR headsets were shipped in 2016 for a total revenue of $1.8B. Not a bad start, but just a small dent in the $228B consumer electronics market. There are still many VR skeptics and consumer adoption rates are relatively modest. Some forecasters predict VR headset sales to hit 20 million units by 2018, and with eight new headsets on their way to the market, this seems feasible. Only time will tell if virtual reality is profitable for companies in the years to come.