Thursday June 20 Rosé and Real Talk (About the Economics of VR), sought to answer this question with panelists Mariana Acosta, founder Jolt VR, Jason Steinberg, VP of Strategic Iniatives at Avatar Labs, Rohan Freeman, Chairman at Sine Wave Entertainment and Simon Ko, Art Director of Vrainiac, moderated by Wagner James Au, author of The Making of Second Life.
Why VR? It’s the question everyone’s asking.
LBE (location based entertainment) companies like The Void and Holodeck VR are pushing forward and experimenting with new ways of monetizing in VR, although, some of these facilities make less than a small movie theater, said Mariana Acosta, founder of Jolt VR.
With hardware issues to solve, and a steep intro price for consumers, VR content has numerous road blocks in competition for screen time.
Simon Ko, art director at Vrainiac Studio, compared VR to phone design. Phone design began with buttons and a small screen, then the iPhone came out with no buttons at all, “and this is where we’re at with VR, there’s no history for it yet,” said Ko.
Along with the “geeky” headsets and no centralized distribution channel for 360 video or VR narratives, VR companies are looking for new and novel ways to interact with consumers and to monetize content.
“The potential of VR to create emotional responses is greater than anything we have seen yet,” said Ko, but he agrees that in order for VR to become mainstream, it needs a distribution channel.
VR narratives are kicking off at festivals like Sundance, SXSW and Cannes this year, but gaming still tops the charts in the economics of VR.
Ko left his last job as concept artist with Infinity Ward where he worked on Call of Duty because he saw the opportunity to apply the growth that is seen in AR and VR to the 130B gaming market we see today.
“We must solve the hardware issues, then it’s going to take off,” he said.
Wagner James AU, author of The Making of Second Life and moderator for the panel, added that gaming will always prevail in entertainment. “Games always lead, they are fun, interactive and engaging. Then video follows,” he said.
Beat Saber is a good example. It’s a great, easy experience to jump into, said Wagner.
Kent Bye from Voices of VR in Beat Saber
We can also look at WOW (World of Warcraft), said Acosta. People used to play it from home for four or five days a week, and it’s now developed into a huge industry where fans are engaged and interact and attend live events to see their favorite teams play.
“We need to fill the void, and virtual reality is going to do that, no pun intended,” said Jason Steinberg, VP of strategic Initiatives at Avatar Labs. We also need to work at narratives in 360, along with distribution channels. Essentially, we need a repeat format for consumers, like Netflix where consumers can simply play next episode.
“Different screens play different roles in the lifetime of a user,” said Rohan Freeman, Chairman at Sine Wave Entertainment. With a background at Ingenious Media Plc, the largest media finance firm in Europe that created Avatar, Life of Pie, and The Golden Compass, Freeman is now keeping an eye on development in VR.
As we create platforms and content where people interact, “there’s fundamentally a higher duty of care,” said Freeman. Essentially, VR needs to capitalize, but also to take care of its users.
With one of the most immersive and emotional experiences offered by media to date, the way we interact and engage with VR as it becomes mainstream will also heavily impact our mainstream thoughts and values.
And it may not be long before we see VR become mainstream. Just as video games started in LBE as arcades before making it into the home, VR is well en-route to following a similar pattern, that is, if the industry can continue to answer the question we all have: why virtual reality?