Above: The StarVR One headset.
Only months after introducing a $3,200 virtual reality headset with an ultra-wide field of view, location-based HMD maker StarVR is facing the threat of imminent closure or sale, Digitimes reports. Majority-owned by Acer with a one-third stake from Starbreeze, StarVR was delisted from Taiwan’s stock exchange after only six months of trading, and is now expected to be disbanded within three months unless it gets profitable or purchased.
StarVR has spent the past several years as a niche player in the VR market, most notably supplying its eponymous first-generation headset to Japanese Sega arcades, Dubai’s Emaar VR Park, and Imax VR centers. Compared with more mainstream rivals such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, StarVR headsets could fill your peripheral vision with content, rather than empty black space — a benefit for immersion-focused companies like Imax.
But Imax backed off its VR expansion plans earlier this year, closing three of its VR centers and forecasting that it might shutter the remaining four. It also said that it wasn’t planning any VR investments for 2019, a potentially fatal announcement for its primary headset supplier.
Releasing another expensive headset doesn’t appear to have improved the company’s recent prospects. While typical VR headsets feature around 110-degree fields of view, the StarVR One offered a 210-degree horizontal field of view spread across two high-resolution AMOLED displays. Like the original model, the screens and related optical tracking technologies placed the headset out of consumer reach, leaving StarVR dependent on new location-based entertainment customers that apparently haven’t materialized.
StarVR said that it lost $3.79 million in the first half of 2018, almost 15 times more than its comparable 2017 losses, and its revenues dropped nearly 90 percent year-over-year. While that’s not a huge amount of money for any company to lose, Acer reportedly evaluated the company’s development plans and the status of the VR industry, and is giving the company three months to turn profitable, find a buyer, or disband.
Starbreeze said earlier this month that it would decide on December 27 whether StarVR will cease to be a public company, and that it will retain intellectual property rights to the StarVR One headset. Acer is said to be looking at potential Japanese and Chinese buyers for the company, as the latter market has continued to see strong interest and growth in VR.