VR: Finding Its Feet - 2018 in review

nDreams CEO Patrick O’Luanaigh sums up the last 12 months in the world of VR – from blockbuster games and new hardware launches to the rise and rise of VR arcades…

What a year it has been in the world of virtual reality! Given some of the headlines this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that VR isn’t doing so well. However, if you take a look at what is actually going on beneath the surface, you’ll see that 2018 has been a phenomenally important year; a year where VR truly found its feet ready for bigger things in the year to come.

For us, there have been three key trends that have emerged this year:

1. The emergence of Location Based Entertainment

2018 was the year that VR arcades and location-based entertainment centres really came of age. We’ve seen the rise of several major players; from Springboard, Ctrl V and Neurogaming in the arcade space, to high-end free-roaming VR like The Void, Dreamscape Immersive and Zero Latency. It’s a fast-growing sector, and we’re seeing content evolve from short one-off single-player experiences to custom multi-player games that encourage repeat play.

For me, the most exciting area to emerge is free-roaming backpack VR, which allows powerful, emotional experiences that simply aren’t possible at home, even with the most expensive setup. The potential of this segment is immense and 2018 laid the foundations nicely.

Zero Latency 20

2. Home VR driven by ease and accessibility

Consumer VR has continued to grow steadily, driven by headsets that are easy to use and highly accessible - in particular the Oculus Go, the PlayStation VR and the Vive Focus. There seems to be a clear trend towards simplicity and instant access, which is a trend that the forthcoming Oculus Quest meets perfectly.

The Oculus Go, a relatively cheap ‘all-in-one’ VR headset, launched in May, and it appears to have sold more than 1m units already. Oculus also announced the Quest headset (previously known as the Santa Cruz), which will launch next year. Like the Go, the Quest is an all-in-one headset. However, unlike the Go, it will feature full inside-out 6DOF tracking and 6DOF motion controllers. In my view, it’s the most exciting VR headset announced to date, and has huge potential.

 

Quest

Sony’s PlayStation VR continued to dominate and has now sold well in excess of 3 million units. The price point has now come down from £349 to £179, which should ensure significant sales over the Christmas period.

3. The importance of content

2018 also demonstrated the importance of fantastic VR content, and we’ve seen some superb VR games launch this year. Beat Saber became the most talked-about VR game to date, with a fantastic combination of music and motion controllers generating lots of press and plenty of plaudits. It was great to see more high quality, longer form VR gems appear, most notably Astro Bot Rescue Mission and The Persistence.  2018 also saw excellent multiplayer delivered by Firewall Zero Hour as well as a reimagined classic with the wonderful Tetris Effect.

astrobot

Our own Shooty Fruity has performed really well; it remains the (joint) highest rated VR shooter ever on PlayStation VR, and the reaction from players and reviewers has been great to see.

However, there is still a shortage of truly great VR games, and we’ve seen a few developers dropping out of VR as they can’t get the economics to work. That said, it is clearly possible to make money and build a growing business in VR, even now, and we’re seeing some incredible titles on the way in 2019 - for example, Stormland, Lone Echo 2, Blood and Truth and a certain game that we can’t talk about yet which we’ll be revealing in 2019! As the VR install base grows, game budgets will increase and developers will grow even faster and stronger.

stormland

Moving forward

For all these reasons, we enter 2019 feeling incredibly positive about VR.

We’re seeing companies like Oculus, Sony and Google continue to invest heavily and ship better and cheaper headsets. Indeed, there has been no sign of the major technology companies doing anything other than doubling down on their investments in VR and AR. The vast majority of VR CEOs and leaders believe that VR is now only a few years away from the ‘hockey stick’ moment.

So, how does nDreams fit into these three emerging trends? Well, we announced our first two VR arcade titles in November, Perfect Balloon Flight and Shooty Fruity Arcade. We’re in the process of launching an arcade version of Shooty Fruity into VR arcades and have ambitious plans for the arcade/LBE space.

BALLOON SCREENSHOT 5

We were proud to be announced as development partners working on Oculus Quest at the Oculus Connect event this year. Quest is at the cutting edge in terms of high quality, accessible, easy to use VR hardware and, as you’ve probably gathered, is a headset that we’re incredibly excited about.

As a company, we’ve been growing fast since August, our team is now close to 60, and we’ll continue to grow well into next year, which is both a daunting and exciting step.

We’re also incredibly proud of the quality level of the projects that we’re now working at. In fact, our biggest frustration this year has been not being able to talk about 90% of what we’ve been working on. I wish I could share just a taste of what we’ve been creating this year. I’m so proud of what the team here has achieved, but you’ll have to wait until 2019 to see why!

There is so much exciting stuff going on here behind the scenes, and 2019 promises to be the biggest year for nDreams that we’ve ever had, so keep an eye on us, and join us on the next exciting chapter of our journey…

For the latest news keep in touch via @nDreamsVR

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