It’s been mentioned on more than one occasion, but VR could be massive for sports. Complete immersion into a game of football would be an amazing thing to have from home. Singaporeans who wouldn’t be able to afford flying to England to watch a full game would definitely benefit. However, the first sport to get a real VR treatment is not football. Even American football hasn’t got it yet. Instead, the first sport to get the VR treatment is chess.
A Reuters article on the topic explains the move. Illya Merenzon, chief executive of rights holders World Chess by Agon Ltd, says that it is capitalising on where the majority of their audience is. “As chess is 99.999 percent on the Internet, we were looking for ways to give fans a way to experience the match as if they are in the players’ area,” Merenzon says. Merenzon further added when speaking to Reuters that whilst the VR pass will cost $15, the company will provide moves and analytics of the games as a separate free of charge product. If you are watching Chess then it would make sense to have access to strategy breakdowns. Furthermore, this VR experience is going to be made available on all VR platforms, both mobile and headset.
Of all sports to choose for a VR treatment, Chess is a choice that could cause more than just a few head scratches. However, when looking at the numbers behind the competitive chess scene it makes sense. Merenzon did say that the vast majority of spectators watch online, so there is no need to push people there. Furthermore, according to Agon Ltd, viewership has been growing steadily by about 15% year on year. The last major clash in 2014, for example, drew over two million viewers. Should VR dramatically improve the viewing experience, it would be a bad move not to capitalise on it. VR needs to appeal beyond a gaming audience to make it big, and this might be the ticket to it.
Chess has a small but dedicated following here in Singapore. Maybe this could help raise awareness for the sport. Does the prospect of watching it in VR entice you? Let us know in the comments if you will be getting your hands on this new VR Experience.