Virtual Reality will not be a success if it stays as a gaming peripheral. That is not just speculation, we have a long line of peripherals which faded into nothing. VR even had its first attempt at success with the Virtual Boy. If you don’t know what that is, that is the point. So if VR is going to get even close to being a multi-billion dollar industry, it needs to have mass appeal. So how do you make VR appeal to Singaporeans?
Gaming is a safe choice regarding getting appealing to and audience. Gamers have always been more willing to spend a bit extra to get the best experience, especially PC Gamers. It also helps that Singapore gamers are some of the biggest spenders in the region. In 2015 alone according to Newzoo, Singapore players spent a total of over $200million. There will be at least a few who are willing to spend the cash on a headset. Some are even prepared to pay the insane shipping fees to get their hands on the headset before it officially launches in the country.
However, outside of the PC market, the gaming community is not big enough to make it worth launching the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift or any subsequent headset. The PSVR will be available to purchase in Singapore for gaming, but that comes with its set of issues (see yesterday’s article).
A primary source of entertainment has always been watching videos at home. However, while it used to be TV shows, there are now a wide variety of video watching options out there. From YouTube to Netflix, Singaporeans have a wide range sources to find their entertainment. With the dawn of Toggle and catch-up TV, television packages are even an optional extra.
VR could very easily be applied here, and to some extent, it already exists. There are hundred of 360-degree videos on youtube, which don’t even require a headset. No doubt we will hear Netflix announce something similar down the line. However, because of the relative ease of producing these types of videos, it would be hard to sell headsets. After all, I can watch 360 videos for free, the only cost being the strange looks I would get for swinging my phone around. Unless there is some special video made that require an expensive headset, it’s not going to shift units. After all, why pay over $1000 for a slightly better experience than something you can do for free?
Singaporeans love the English Premier League. Thousands are willing to stay up late to be able to watch their team. While not necessarily responsible, watching football is lots of fun. Even better is being able to watch the game live. However, that is quite simply impossible for most people, for a variety of reasons (lack of free time, high cost, take your pic). My purely speculative opinion is that many hardcore football fans would take the chance to watch it in Virtual Reality. Companies in the United States are already trailing the technology for American Football, and if it’s success, the EPL will likely follow.
Here is the issue of cost, but not just the problem with the VR headset. Sports packages are already very expensive with Singtel (or ViewQwest), and improvements to the baseline broadband to support the streaming (remember this?) and there is quite a price boost. However, dedicated fans will probably be willing to look past the cost for the chance to sit in Old Trafford/White Hart Lane/other and experience, even virtually. After all, it’s still cheaper than attending, with the added benefit of having your bathroom and much more affordable food.
The question of appeal
It can be very hard to gauge how successful a product will be until you launch it. Surveys can be very misleading, and someone who was interested in buying last month might have changed their mind in the intervening time. Right now, as VR stands, there is a good chance that it won’t be a runaway success. There are still too many issues for anyone but an enthusiast to get into. However, the rate at which the scene is developing, that is not to say that by next year VR will be forgotten. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t pass Singapore by.