How the Global Gaming Industry is Set to Benefit From VR

Above: A future of VR Gaming. Photo courtesy Pexels

The adoption of virtual reality (VR) tech is seeing huge growth, thanks to its growing popularity and utility across different industries. For instance, in 2017, Samsung brought Coldplay live to Gear VR, allowing fans from over 50 countries across the world to experience the band’s “A Head Full of Dreams Tour” as it took place in Chicago’s Soldier Field. However, more than entertainment, it’s actually gaming that’s greatly benefitting from VR’s growing popularity. Here are some pertinent VR-related gaming stats presented by Tech Jury…

1. The VR market will grow to $44.7 billion by 2024
2. VR gaming sales revenue will eventually reach $22.9 billion by 2020
3. Gaming will continue to be the focus in VR investments
4. 70% of VR-headset owners have bought at least one game
5. 64% of VR users think that the technology’s potential is the greatest in the gaming industry

VR is Going Mainstream

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Increasing awareness about VR is a key driver of this rapid growth. Consumer Technology Association VP of Research Steve Koenig told Tech Radar that now is the tipping point for mainstream VR adoption. Koenig, along with HTC China Regional President of VR Alvin Wang Graylin, attributes this increasing knowledge — and subsequent acceptance — partly due to Steven Spielberg’s Real Player One. According to Graylin, the movie “educated people about the technology.” The release in 2016 of headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift also helped drive both awareness and acceptance. Both waned in 2017, but are now coming back, this time driven by the development of standalone devices. “I think that will take VR accessibility to a new level,” Graylin explains. These developments play a big part in the robust estimates in VR gaming sales revenue cited above.

A Range of Gaming Choices

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Gaming companies are now taking advantage of the fact that VR has become more mainstream, and are developing and releasing VR-centric games as a direct response to this newfangled popularity. Last year, Beat Games’ Beat Saber proved to be a hit, getting a 99% rating from nearly 2,000 reviews in the week immediately after its early access release. Like Beat Saber, Neat Corporation’s Budget Cuts, Bethseda Game Studios’ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR, and Orbus Online’s OrbusVR: Reborn were all well received, and made it to Steam’s list of top-selling VR games for 2018.

As 2019 proved to be a good year for VR gaming, CNet predicts that gaming will slowly include more and more technology that further immerses players in video games this year. This bullish prediction is due to a slate of highly anticipated games set for release this year including Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx, Rocksteady Studios’ Batman Arkham VR, Respawn Entertainment’s Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, Ready at Dawn’s Lone Echo II and First Contact Entertainment’s Solaris: Offworld Combat. It’s a partial list, but one that highlights the hype surrounding VR games.

 

The Future, Manifesting

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The future of VR gaming might go well beyond standalone devices or individual games. In this regard, Japan is leading the way. CNN reports that VR theme parks are changing entertainment in Japan one park after another. There’s the Adores VR Park in Tokyo, which opened in 2016 as an experiment. Now, it attracts 9,000 visitors every month. There’s also the VR Park Tokyo, whose location in Shibuya puts it in direct competition with Japan’s favorite pastime: pachinko. First built in the 1920s, pachinko machines have solidified their place as the Japanese pastime throughout the years. ExpatBets’ article on the gaming industry in Japan notes that even the stringent limitations on sports betting implemented in 2017 — which reduced the number of balls a pachinko machine can release and capped the maximum amount a player can wager — didn’t stop crowds from gathering at pachinko parlors scattered across the country. Even so, VR Park Tokyo President Manabu Ishii invested some $8 million in his VR theme park — a risk that paid off, as it has become a major attraction in the country, along with the aforementioned Adores VR Park, the cutting-edge VR Zone by Bandai Namco, and Sega Joypolis, which opened last year in Shibuya.

Meeting Challenges to Move Forward

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For all of VR’s growth in gaming, there still remain challenges to be met, notably in terms of hardware. To move the industry forward, HTC, Oculus, and others will need to create wireless, adjustable, and easy-to-wear headsets with higher resolution screens. They will also need to develop enhanced inside-out tracking, six degrees of motion, and better motion controllers. Just as important, gaming companies will have to develop titles that will entice gamers to try out VR.

Of course, developers are taking the necessary strides. Oculus and HTC, for instance, recently released innovative headsets in Quest and Vive Pro Eye, respectively. The PlayStation 5, meanwhile, will reportedly support the $199 PlayStation VR, thus allowing gamers access to Sony’s catalog of VR games, which include Creed: Rise to Glory and Echo Combat. VR games from the likes of Owlchemy Labs, Unity, Ubisoft, and CRYTEK are on the rise as well. These developments bode well for VR gaming, and can potentially push global gaming to even greater heights.