Is virtual reality going to catch on? That’s the billion dollar question right now. Several major technology and gaming companies have invested years of research and development into coming up with a virtual reality solution of their own, but there’s no guarantee that consumers are going to invest. Though, one study has found that odds may be in their favor.
Walker Sands ‘Future of Retail‘ survey has revealed that 49% of consumers are interested in giving Oculus Rift a shot. Equally as important, 32% said that they are willing to purchase Oculus Rift or another virtual reality device despite their costly price tags.
But what really stands out are the findings related to how virtual reality will affect the shopping experience. A staggering 35% of those participating in the survey shared that they feel virtual reality will make online shopping easier by allowing them to experience a more “realistic feel” of the product. Furthermore, 22% say that a virtual reality headset will make them less likely to visit shops in-person.
What these findings demonstrate more than anything is that there’s a much higher interest in virtual reality than one might think, whether for gaming, entertainment, or commercial applications. Its adoption rate could be surprisingly high, which would support why so many corporations are entering the space (i.e. Valve and HTC with the HTC Vive and Samsung with the Samsung Gear VR). This global interest in virtual reality doesn’t appear to be just a phase that’ll go away in a matter of months.
This has particularly large implications for gaming. If there’s one hurdle that poses a challenge for virtual reality, its the potentially insignificant install bases that devices such as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus could have. An optional $199 to $350 device on top of gaming hardware is a tall order for consumers, so proliferating the market is a difficult task. Publishers and developers are in the business to make money, so spending resources to code games to run on virtual reality headsets is something that could potentially provide negative value.
So early on the key could be to integrate virtual reality support in games that can be played with reasonable results without it. That way there’s a larger install base that can purchase and enjoy the game, while those with headsets can get the most out of it. Meanwhile, indie developers can make smaller, more bite-sized experiences that do a better job of demonstrating what virtual reality is capable of. Then, if the install base grows enough to warrant a AAA virtual reality experience, the big players can make a move.
After playing around with the Oculus Rift Dev Kit 1 I’m sold on investing in the technology once it hits the market. Judging by the response of those who have similarly had a chance to see what it’s all about, I’m convinced that it will be a breakthrough for entertainment across the board.