The Year VR Began to Grow Up

By Henry Stuart October 8, 2015

view from the shard immersive 360 degree experience

As the recent Oculus Connect conference in LA highlighted, 2015 is shaping up to be the year that virtual reality (VR) began to grow up. Despite the lack of a major hardware release, it really feels like a much more mature industry.

The biggest announcement at Connect was the $99 GearVR, which is compatible with Samsung’s entire high end smartphone range. Beyond anything else, this will get VR into the hands of potentially millions of consumers in 2016. Oculus has made some very smart moves with content for the GearVR, of which Minecraft & Netflix are the highlights.

Minecraft, one of the world’s biggest multiplayer games, has a huge community of dedicated gamers who would give their left arm to play Minecraft in VR. Netflix needs no introduction and the implementation in VR here is very simple. Users will be able to sit in a virtual cinema of their choice, watching personalised Netflix content on a screen much bigger than any that could fit in the home. This will open the door to far more people than just the hard-core gamers that Oculus is typically associated with, paving the way for headsets in the home to become the norm.

It’s at this point that things will really start hotting up for advertisers, but if they are going to maximise the opportunities, the quality and creativity of the advertising content will have to be improved significantly. If a user is being presented with a number of AAA games or immersive films, anything branded will have to add significant value and benefit to the user if there’s any hope of it getting a look in.

Unlike Facebook and YouTube 360, there is currently no place for advertising in the Oculus Store; getting branded content on there is very tricky indeed. You have to have content that stands up in its own right and very minimal representation of the brand that actually made it happen. Oculus is apparently building a part of the store that will feature brand experiences more heavily, but it’s hard to see why consumers would be tempted into this isolated area.

If Oculus Connect is any indication, 2016 is the year consumer VR will finally happen, with everything pointing to it being a well thought out and successful launch. Along with Oculus, Valve/HTC and PlayStation will also launch their systems. The landscape for VR content creators has never looked more promising.

This article first appeared on the WallBlog

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