Q2 '18 marks the decisive end of VR's first hype wave among consumers and industry professionals. After pop culture failed to energize audiences on the concept of VR, the industry currently finds itself crawling out of a trough of disillusionment.
Now more than ever, a solid long-term strategy will be crucial for VR companies who intend to reach the next wave of adoption. Below are three critical priorities for attracting customers and maintaining ecosystems in the immediate future of the industry.
As with any burgeoning technology, VR has a relatively small but vocal community of early adopters, enthusiasts, and evangelists. This community drives the majority of initial sales, content development, and general market visibility in the space. VR providers must develop winning channel strategies around feedback from these communities, as well as from consumers at large. This will help to maximize the effectiveness of sales and marketing initiatives.
Greenlight Insights' research has consistently ranked the ability to demo VR hardware ("try before you buy") among the top 3 considerations influencing purchase intent. Firms such as Microsoft are leveraging brick-and-mortar presence to create inviting spaces for customers to try a wide variety of XR hardware. These include not only Windows MR, but also Vive, Oculus, and even Hololens. In addition, these spaces also host clients seeking business consultations, who hope to incorporate XR into professional environments.
The company's overall strategy appears to be paying off, as Windows MR continues a steady climb in gaming market share, according to Steam's comprehensive monthly hardware survey.
Familiarity Breeds Success
As VR begins to expand into other sectors besides consumer entertainment, awareness of XR is on the rise. However, knowledge of the space is still lacking compared to knowledge of other consumer electronics. It is also noticeably skewed towards younger users.
The task of mass education on VR is massive, to say the least. Hardware and software providers could instead attack a lack of consumer awareness from another angle. By partnering with major IP owners, companies can deliver products that will engage consumers by way of association. HTC Vive's recent partnership with the Virtual Reality Company and Universal Studios brought a highly compelling experience to customers all over the US, which attracted hundreds of thousands of users to try VR, and created additional opportunities for them to return, in the service of satisfying curiosity.
Bring Out Your Devs
Finally, once VR has established healthy pipelines to attract new users, the next obstacle to overcome is content shortage. In order to establish a constant and reliable supply of content and maximizing the overall "stickiness" of VR technology, providers will need to invest heavily in galvanizing developers, especially given continued uncertainties regarding profitability and payment models in XR. Initiatives such as Viveport's Anniversary Celebration are attractive but represent a stopgap solution to a much greater problem of adequate compensation for developers.
Before shuttering, Oculus Story Studio represented an unprecedented investment in VR content creation, and the quality of the content produced was easily recognizable. Funding from major VR firms like Oculus is the industry's best chance at kickstarting more AAA content. If this becomes standard practice, the VR is sure to attract more interest from consumers.