Welcome to the times after Christmas — after you’ve opened all the gifts, had all the cookies, and drank too much egg nog, it’s time to step back from the personal monetary destruction and to see what happened in aggregate.
For me, I love to see the big trends — who bought what, for whom did they buy it and why? When I took a look at the App Store this morning, I was stunned. VR was HUGE! But then I stepped back for a moment and realized just how important this trend is for the industry. It gives us a window to see that people do, in fact, want VR. They’re just not willing to shell out the big bucks yet to get it.
Let’s first take a look at the numbers:
The Top Charts
On the top charts, we have VR Roller Coaster at #7. Arguably not a great first foray into VR (coaster sims have a tendency to make us sick) but no doubt a popular choice. But the sim was so popular that it was downloaded more times than Facebook Messenger, Facebook, and Bitmoji after Christmas.
Moving down the charts, we start seeing more and more experiences populating the list: VR Horror at #16, Jurassic VR at #17 (a fantastic experience), and Discovery VR at #18.
The list goes further, with tenVR titles occupying the top-25 slots for the entire App Store. That means of the top-25 titles on the App Store, VR takes 40%.
So what does this mean?
People want VR, but high-end VR is far too expensive at the moment. People are hungry for content, they’re just inhibited by the high costs currently assocaited with the high end headsets.
The numbers I mention above are for Apple’s App Store, and this is important. Apple has yet release any support for VR, meaning that consumers’ only options are Google’s Cardboard (which are compatible with Android and iOS) or the any number of cheap, plastic headsets we find on store shelves. Both of these options cost less than $20 and can be populated with a number of free VR content from their respective app stores.
What this tells me is that people are hungry for VR content. There was no “VR bubble” that was burst in 2016 — people are still warming up to the idea that VR is a fantastic and world changing product. They’re so interested, then, that they’re willing to buy cheap VR headsets to experiment with the medium.
And people will begin to upgrade. As the MP3 player market was warmed up with Creative and SanDisk, only to have the hot iPod take over the world, it will take time for consumers to realize the power of VR through cheaper options. Once they see the value in the medium, they will eventually buy a high-end headset when the price (and time) is right. It will take time for consumer demand to match the costs associated with VR.
Hopefully, these early, cheaper experiences are good and positive for the new consumers. I always say that a person’s first forray into virtual reality is unforgettable. With so many new eyes experiencing VR for the first time, 2017 will be bigger than 2016 for the VR industry. And 2018 bigger yet. VR is a gradual gestating medium for now. But once it booms, it will be huge.