In 2016, VR was ready to conquer the world. It seemed that its time had finally arrived. Maybe it was because of the artful headsets prepared to hit the consumer market and the gaming, entertainment, and social media industries jumping on the bandwagon.
However, VR has seemed to flounder. By 2019, the consumer market still had not fully adopted VR. Currently, VR is mostly seen as a product exclusively for gaming or corporate training. Perhaps the high cost, the cumbersome headsets, the lack of compelling content, or other shortcomings are holding back mass adoption.
Despite the lack of mass adoption, VR advocates are hopeful. They are optimistic because, according to International Data Corporation (IDC), the shipment of VR headsets reached 1.9 million during the 3rd quarter of 2019. That number is an 8% increase from previous years.
With that said, here some reasons why VR still struggles for mass adoption in the consumer market.
Some complaints levied on VR from the consumer market are about cost, sketchy graphics, and that users still need to anchor their headset to a console or their PC. For instance, though the price of an Oculus Rift has dropped from USD$600 to USD$400, the user still needed to have a pricey PC to handle the graphics. VR enthusiasts believe standalone headsets like Oculus Quest priced at USD$400 will save the day.
For VR to gain mass appeal based on price, it needs to be inexpensive enough to make people buy it without thinking of the cost.
The idea of VR is captivating. Artists had been trying to create art that hits all of our senses at once for decades. In the 1960s, Morton Heilig’s Sensorama was a box people stuck their heads into to watch five short films. Heilig designed the five short films to trigger all five senses of the viewer. Like Heilig’s box, VR headsets are clunky. They are heavy, require cables, and uncomfortable. There have been complaints of motion sickness. There are accounts of people walking into walls and crashing onto glass coffee tables.
Lack of Killer Content
In any case, the most striking reason for lack of mass adoption is that VR doesn’t have that killer software yet. A majority of game publishers have avoided VR and venture capital investment into VR software has drastically decreased.
Meanwhile, VR still awaits that one game that inspires the imagination of the masses. Despite the low amount of investment dollars, there some fun games out there; just not one fun enough to light the consumer market on fire.
Venture capital funding is still needed if VR is going stick with the mass market. Developing VR games is expensive. Like every new platform, investment needs to pour into new tools to build exciting games.
Small scale developers take enormous risks because the cost of resources to make a VR game is high. And in a small VR market, developers are not earning a living making VR games.
Not Social or Mobile
Another problem facing VR is that it is not social. People cannot share their VR experience with their friends. Also, people cannot play VR games on the go. Right now, VR is for the home.
Unlike other mobile devices like smartphones and laptops, VR has many moving parts. Even if a standalone VR permitted mobility, it still doesn’t have the capability of making the user aware of their outside surroundings. At least people glued to their phone screens can look up to avoid collisions with other people.
Despite the challenges VR faces gain mass adoption, it is only a matter of time before VR takes off. Some argue that VR was introduced too early to the consumer market. These folks also believe that it is a matter of when, not if VR will cotton to the masses. For now, VR will complement gaming systems and provide exceptional experiences.