One Year After Oculus Rift Launch, VR is Here to Stay

by Ian Hamilton • March 28th, 2017

In the middle of August 2012 I wrote my first article about Oculus. A few months later, I got my first demo. I’d previously seen some expensive VR installations, like those used by Disney, but my view inside the Oculus Rift — and the interviews I conducted with researchers at Stanford and USC — convinced me VR had a good chance of actually going mainstream.

Those experts helped break down the basics of VR, pointing out much of the technology needed to make it possible was already in millions of homes with accessories like Microsoft’s Kinect sensor. This suggested VR was a natural next step that would simply pull together, in new configurations, the kinds of body tracking, rendering and display technologies we already had readily available. The following quote, however, is what stuck inside my brain for the last four and a half years:

“If there’s not something additive or functionally better, it’s not going to catch on,” said Jesse Divinich, vice president in charge of analysis at video-game research firm EEDAR. “It has to do a better job than the market standard that existed before.”

VR Is Still Inspiring Developers

Luckys Tale EVE Valkyrie ImageOne year after the Rift’s release, I feel confident the threshold outlined by Divinich has been surpassed.

There is VR hardware and software available via major retailers capable of making people feel emotions at a level of intensity which cannot be achieved with traditional video games. To see it, you need only to feel the fear that can be experienced in a headset playing a game like Resident Evil 7, or the exhilaration of piloting a ship in a game like EVE: Valkyrie or ducking fast-approaching robots in Robo Recall or Raw Data.

This same rush is what often convinces developers themselves to move into VR. Owen O’Brien, the executive producer of Rift launch title EVE: Valkyrie, recently expressed in an interview a story we’ve heard many times before from developers. He joined CCP Games to work on the game after trying a prototype.

“Simply trying the game, coming over and putting on the headset and realizing that VR was going to actually work this time,” O’Brien said. “This is all landfall on a new continent for everybody.”

Impossible Expectation Meets Actual Sales Figures

Job Simulator

While developer enthusiasm is certainly encouraging, around 1 million PlayStation VR headsets have been sold, and around 30 games, many of them likely from indies with very small teams, have achieved software sales via Steam in excess of $250,000.

Depending on your perspective, you could label each of these figures as “small” or “disappointing,” but in my view it is evidence of one simple fact: There is enough VR hardware in the market already to grant some small teams building on a great idea enough income from sales alone to fund future projects.

Take Job Simulator as the chief example. This title cleared $3 million in sales as a leading app on PSVR, Rift and Vive by hitting a sweet spot between price, interactivity and support for multiple platforms. This strategy allowed the title to rake in millions while being built by a relatively small team. And look at Onward, a game principally built by one man, that cleared $400,000 in sales almost six months ago.

The success stories people crave are all around us in the VR industry if you’re willing to pay attention.

Focusing On What Matters

The 3D platformer "Lucky's Tale" was one of the first Oculus Studios titles.

The 3D platformer “Lucky’s Tale” was one of the first Oculus Studios titles.

Playful Corp’s Lucky’s Tale, like EVE: Valkyrie, was bundled with the Oculus Rift when it first started shipping. These titles are some of the earliest software backed by Oculus for its fledgling headsets. Given the Rift anniversary, I connected with Playful Corp CEO Paul Bettner to see what he thought of VR’s first year.

“It’s been a phenomenal ‘first year’ for consumer VR,” Bettner wrote in a message. “We start 2017 with millions of new VR consumers and an avalanche of amazing content. We’ve come so far in 12 months. There are thousands of VR devs now, incredible tools, and great new stuff coming out every week. And that’s just one year in. Think about where we’ll be a year from now. With an increasing rate of consumer adoption driven by better, more accessible hardware and lower costs, an explosion of high-end content, next-generation hardware announcements, and tremendous ongoing investment in VR/AR/MR. This is the revolution we predicted it would be. This is the revolution we hoped it would be.”

Now with Oculus at Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has promised to spend at least $500 million funding new virtual worlds designed to surpass the threshold Divinich established in 2012.

“I am more than satisfied with the first year of sales. In fact I’m kind of shocked by anyone who isn’t, although I understand the way the hype cycle works and people had such unrealistic expectations for first 12 months,” Bettner wrote. “What seems clear now – based on sales/revenue, continued consumer excitement, massive ongoing investment, etc – is that this industry is established on an undeniable trajectory. The question of ‘if?’ is gone.”

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  • Happy birthday Oculus Rift

  • Justos

    First year was a bumpy ride for sure, but VR is here to stay. No doubt. I believe that this is the year of content and I’m really excited.

  • nejihiashi88

    I won’t buy a oculus rift or htc vive unless i see 4k screen and ps vr like head holder.

    • random_name

      LG is releasing a headset later this year built off Valve tracking. The next generation of headsets for Oculus/Vive will be out next year. I don’t blame you for wanting to wait though, but just remember one thing; VR is incredible.

      • Justos

        “The next generation of headsets for Oculus/Vive will be out next year. ”

        Willing to bet that you’re wrong. They will probably tease it next year for release in 2019. Graphics cards can not handle 4k VR

        • Devid

          It is possible that new HMD will be available this year.
          Also we already kind of have 4K HMD from PIMAX, of course it is not really ready to use.

          Will next gen HMD have 4K or higher resolution is another question, but I hope so.
          Because low res and SDE are biggest problems for current HMD’s.

          • Buddydudeguy

            PIMAX is garbage.

        • random_name

          Graphics cards won’t need to handle an entire screen at 4K if they use eye tracking and Foveated Rendering. It will only render 4K wherever the eyes are looking at and I”m willing to put money that Oculus/Vive will have it in their next headsets next year. this technology could even lower the requirements of the hardware.

          Though, the resolution is actually completely debatable and I doubt 4k will be available just yet. One can hope.

          • Burner

            Got a source for this?

    • indi01

      That’s alright. A couple of years max.

    • polysix

      you are right to wait. I’ve owned PSVR, DK2 and VIVE – all sold. GREAT fun, VR is that good that even low tech is amazing BUT for the price? no. It needs much more, sooner rather than later.. no trickle feeding.

      • Buddydudeguy

        PSVR is closer to a DK1, maybe DK2 than the Rift or Vive. Not on the same level.

  • jimrp

    VR as a whole has helped out the little that wanted to make games and make money.

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

    Don’t support Oculus. Google Oculus Trump.

    If you are thinking about buying an Oculus Rift headset, Google Oculus Trump before giving your money to a company whose founder supports the alt-right. Thanks for reading.

  • CURTROCK

    Happy Aniversary Oculus. More games, better quality, cheaper price. Excellent.

  • Legend B

    Vr is inspiring developers?! LOL which ones? Must be typing about the nobodies making all these little short kiddie games and demos they sell like they’re full games. Only decent developers I’ve seen get into the mix have been ones that just want to port over a game that’s already been developed mostly to rake in a few quick bucks off this gimmick. I’ve not read about or see ANYTHING remotely decent from triple A developers, you know why? they’re too busy making the next COD 30 to sell on consoles that have millions of more users. Hate to be the negative nancy here but greed is killing gaming and greed will kill VR before it even gets decent games developed.

    • Xron

      Go on, go make an AAA game in a year…
      Userbase is too small as you know…. Big devs trying to get max cash from regular gaming before they dive in into VR, though they will do it eventually, because it will be hard for regular games to compete against VR,

    • Scion

      Chicken vs Egg scenario. AAA Pubs don’t like large risks for their investment into production, this means they want to know the size of their target market. Since it’s only now that they have measurable sizes of the market, they’ll invest production relative to the return they can expect. New IP games take an average of 4-5 years, so we won’t be seeing many AAA level VR games for a while.

      • Legend B

        Yep, and without the good games, you have the majority of people like me, not willing to invest in the hardware to play mediocre games/demo experiences for a costly $fee$. Guess that’s why it was doomed to fail…but hey, I don’t want to rain on the few million people that already went full on in investing’s parade, hope you guys get atleast something decent besides port overs in the near future…just don’t hold your breath.

        • Scion

          That’s what 1st party game devs are for, hence why Facebook and Valve pouring millions into making games and movies and social interactive experiences. They’re making the first eggs to start the cycle. It’s hard but not necessarily doomed to fail, the problem lies in getting the average customer to see how radically different it is to 3D TV’s and that requires them to try it out personally.

  • polysix

    VR is here to stay, I just hope GEN 1 isn’t.

    Give us Gen 2 already.. sheesh. My vive was good enough for about a month.

  • Buddydudeguy

    I’m still waiting for real games. Indy shovelware got old real fast.

    • Stephen Mullins

      Elite Dangerous, Google Earth, Robo Recall.

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

    Don’t support Oculus. Google Oculus Trump.

    Or give this a read
    http
    ://www
    .wired.co.uk/article/oculus-palmer-luckey-deletes-reddit-account-trump-shitposting-links

    • satans666

      sore loser

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

    @Uploadvr How about publishing a factual Oculus article, warts and all?

  • One year in and I’m extremely happy. The power of VR inspired me to get back into development for sure. Can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store!

  • lasse

    Lol, pretty ignorant, 250.000 is not enough to fund future projects, it barely covers the costs of the first ones, VR is dying again, we all know it. I mostly blame Valve for thinking that you could get indie developers to do everything, and Oculus for thinking that segregating a newly born platform was a smart move, I guess we’ll get a bit of a reconnaissance in a couple of years, but pretending like VR didn’t fall flat on it’s face is ridiculous