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VR at Retail: Are Expectations Too Low?

VR sales continue to surprise.

There’s always a catch 22 situation with new technology platforms, especially in the video game industry. For a new piece of hardware to do well it needs great content. It doesn’t matter how good the specs might be, or some amazing new feature, if there’s nothing to play then it’s not going to sell. On the flip side studio’s don’t want to spend time and resources on a project only for it to completely bomb thanks to lack of users. And the same could’ve been said for virtual reality (VR), had the industry not garnered a community spirit, with indie developers across the world creating content. There is still a residing feeling that VR is still very niche among some studios, and gaining the investment back isn’t a possibility, but is that still the case?

Today the latest sales for the UK charts were released, and while it was predominantly full of traditional titles, there was one notable exception, Impulse Gear’s first-person shooter (FPS) for PlayStation VR, Farpoint. The video game launched last Tuesday for the headset, mainly marketed alongside the Aim controller – putting the bundle at £75 GBP – and still managed to achieve number two for a device and technology that’s seen as small scale. If Injustice 2 hadn’t also launched the same week would Farpoint actually have made it to number one? I’d like to think so.

Farpoint screenshot

And number two in the charts is the highest a VR title has achieved so far, which isn’t too shabby considering how new to the consumer sphere it is. But what about other experiences? Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 biohazard is an easy one to pick. While it launched in January it’s still in the charts at a respectable 15th place (dropping from 11th last week). While a VR-compatible title, figures on Capcom’s ResidentEvil.net website reveal out of 2 million players worldwide, 10 percent – that’s just over 214,000 – of players are VR users, and that’s just the ones who allowed their gameplay data to be used. Fairly decent figures I think.

But what about other head-mounted displays (HMDs) like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Well a fairly big news piece that appeared in September came from California-based developer Survios with Raw Data. The studio announced it had hit $1 million USD in sales in just over a month, and a look at current figures from Steamspy shows that 80,000 + players own the experience, not bad considering the HTC Vive is $799/£759 (and it’s now on Oculus Rift as of March).

So back to the original question, are studio expectations of VR sales still too low? Should they really see be able to see profit in VR? Well if their video game is good enough then yes, there’s no reason to believe money can’t be made from VR. Sure there aren’t as many players as on Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but you also don’t have as many other studios to contend with, giving a greater chance of media coverage and potential sales.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens at E3 next month, as VR had a decent presence last year so could there be even greater prospects for 2017?

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