Founder of Oculus VR, Palmer Luckey, who founded the company in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, left the company last year, recently published an article with his thought regarding it will take for virtual reality to reach the mainstream. What he believes that is price matters little, if the VR experience is not keeping audiences coming back to the technology on a regular basis.
Just last week, we saw the departure of Brendan Iribe, who left the company supposedly after a significant upgrade to the device was canceled in favor of a lesser iteration version to keep the cost down.
Presently, Facebook’s influence on the company has become increasingly apparent. The two founders of Oculus are no longer with the company.
Luckey recently wrote an article, titled ‘Free isn’t Cheap Enough‘, makes the point that the number of headsets sold does not matter if customers are not truly engaged with VR devices, and is using it on a regular basis. He stress that “Engagement is Everything”.
“You could give a Rift+PC to every single person in the developed world for free, and the vast majority would cease to use it in a matter of weeks or months,”
Luckey illustrate his point. “I know this from seeing the results of large scale real-world market testing, not just my own imagination – hardcore gamers and technology enthusiasts are entranced by the VR of today, as am I, but stickiness drops off steeply outside of that core demographic. Free is still not cheap enough for most people, because cost is not what holds them back actively or passively.”
The “stickiness” Luckey refers to is whether or not people are stay engaged and make routine use of the product. The engagement on a user-to-user basis do not necessarily increase as price goes down. Luckey believes that cutting cost as priority does not help with the industry in the long run.
Recently the market has been experimenting with cheap VR hardware, shows that while there are millions of people willing to buy new VR hardware, but very few amongst these people continue to use the VR hardware or is willing to invest in the software ecosystem in the long run. And why is it? Is really because of the quality of experience.
Furthermore, Luckey stress that “No existing or imminent VR hardware is good enough to go truly mainstream, even at a price of $0.00.”
However, Luckey does acknowledge that cutting costs can increase the size of the engaged audience, but not to the degree many experts forecasted. Price is certainly one relevant factor, but not one that would dictate the true potential of VR. Luckey says that
“Most near-future major hardware advancements will be coming from the big players. The good news there is that most of the big players working on HMDs also run content platforms, so there is built-in incentive to make hardware that drives better engagement, even at the cost of sales or margin.”
Luckey tells Road to VR. “On the developer side, people who focus on making engaging content that keeps users coming back, despite the current limitations of virtual reality stand to gain the most in the long run. Keeping users will only get easier as time goes on, and the hardware gets better. 5 percent of a one million user market may not seem like a lot, but the network effects are likely to carry forward as the market scales to much larger numbers. This is one of the main reasons I am so bullish on Rec Room, VRChat, etc.”
“Higher resolution, improved ergonomics that cater to a wide variety of users, and enough deep content to engage that same wide variety of users are all key factors.”