Santa and his elves must be fans of virtual reality because VR headsets were the hottest gifts under the tree this year. The biggest winner, the affordable Google Cardboard, lined the the shelves of stores this holiday season, and consumers bought them in droves. Yet, on Christmas morning, users wanting to explore VR with their new headsets found themselves without an easy way to search for the best VR experiences.
Google Cardboard opens the virtual door to the masses
Google Cardboard is not a product as much as it is a set of technical guidelines, designed by Google, to help manufacturers make affordable VR headsets. The range of Cardboard headsets vary in quality and price: some are actually made of cardboard and sell for less than $10 on Amazon, while others made of plastic can cost up to $80.
Although Cardboard is looked down upon by many in the virtual reality community as a subpar VR experience — especially when compared to the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift — Cardboard enables anyone with a smartphone to experience virtual reality.
Christmas morning, virtual reality surges on iPhones
Although Apple has shown reluctance to become a major supporter of virtual reality, VR apps surged in the App Store on Christmas day. According to data and insight company, App Annie, 29 of the top 100 free iOS apps on Christmas day were related to VR.
Only four categories were found in the top VR apps. The overwhelming majority of apps (66%) were listed in the Games category. Entertainment was the next largest category at 28%. Sports and Photo and Video categories combined made up less than 7%.
Users are searching for virtual reality
Christmas morning users were on the hunt, actively searching for VR experiences at unprecedented levels resulting in VR appearing in 3 of the top 10 search terms in the App Store.
Users used the broad search terms: “vr apps”, “virtual reality”, and “vr games” to search for VR content, while most of the other trending searches were app specific. What does this tell us? Users want to experience more VR, and are seeking it out, but their broad search terms are an indicator that they are unsure of what to look for.
Users want to experience more VR, and are seeking it out, but their broad search terms are an indicator that they are unsure of what to look for.
A single app to rule them all
While users are actively looking to experience VR, these experiences are fragmented into numerous apps. In fact, 83% of the top VR apps this Christmas limited users to a single VR experience. As a result, users have to download an application for each VR experience they wish to have.
83% of the top VR apps limit users to a single virtual reality experience.
Considering that nearly half of US smartphone users download less than 1 app a month, users can’t be expected to be swimming in a sea of apps to experience VR.
The next wave of virtual reality
Christmas was a clear indicator of consumers’ increasing appetite for VR: they are purchasing VR hardware but the VR app landscape is a mess.
There are great VR experiences out there, but there isn’t a great way to find them. If not quickly fixed, this growing issue will soon turn into a crisis. This is precisely why users need a single app where they can search and discover the best VR experiences all in one place.
Users will need an app where they can search and discover the best virtual reality experiences all in one place.
VR’s stickiness depends on consumers being able to easily discover amazing VR content. Otherwise, come next Christmas we’ll see lots of lonely VR headsets. As VR enthusiasts we can’t let this golden opportunity to push forward the entire ecosystem pass us by.
To make sure those headsets don’t get abandoned, we’re launching SVRF, a place to search and discover the best VR content, in early 2017. You can signup for early access at SVRF.com
Written by Stephen Chow, Co-Founder @SVRF for Medium.