Virtual reality “arrived” in a very real sense in 2016. Throughout the year, a wide range of products related to virtual reality were released. Some are quite affordable and built to be paired with mobile phone for easy VR experiences. Others are every bit as expensive (and in some cases more expensive than) high-end gaming consoles, and partner with those same consoles or powerful PCs to present stunning 3D worlds. It was an exciting year, and perhaps most thrilling of all is that most saw it as only the beginning. Indeed, 2017 has already shown further evolution and advancement of the VR market.
Still, the market hasn’t been without its surprises. Here are a few developments (and non-developments) that we might have forecasted differently.
Nintendo Plays The Black Sheep Again
Nintendo has been the black sheep of major console companies for what seems like 20 years now. That’s not to say they’re any worse than Xbox or PlayStation (though many modern gamers seem to think that’s the case), they’re simply different. Nintendo tried to get ahead of the curve with the Wii and wound up seeming somehow less sophisticated than the Xbox 360 or PS3. Wii U was hardly an answer to Xbox One or PS4. And now, as Microsoft and Sony are delving into VR to pair with their consoles, Nintendo is innovating with the inventive Switch console. There have been arguments like the one made here that augmented reality will actually be bigger than virtual reality, and in that sense Nintendo may be (somewhat sneakily) ahead of the game thanks to its association with AR hit Pokémon GO. But for the most part it seems Nintendo is playing in its own world again.
Apple Is Taking Its Time
Samsung and Google have already joined in on the VR fun, each having released a device to pair with its top smartphone. Meanwhile Apple—usually out in front or at least quick to imitate mobile tech developments—has been very quiet about its VR ambitions. One article published last month indicated that there are those in the tech world who see Apple debuting a VR/AR product by the end of this year. However, the company itself has been noncommittal. For his part, CEO Tim Cook has stated that he sees AR, not VR, as the more significant entertainment concept.
Casino Adaptation Has Been Slow
Many might not have considered the idea of casino gaming on VR, because we don’t really think of the casino genre as having an important place in console gaming. That said, this genre thrives just about everywhere else, and has even come close to recreating a VR-style simulation online. Covering various gaming options offered by casino platforms on the internet, this site describes the growing popularity of “live dealer” options that seek to transport gamers to real life casino environments. This is a trend that’s taken hold among leading casino sites, and would seem to make for a very natural bridge to VR.
Hollywood Has No Plan
Perhaps most surprising of all is that, as this piece put it, Hollywood seems to have no idea what to do with the VR phenomenon. It’s long been suspected that the film industry would hop on board the virtual reality train and help to expand VR entertainment beyond gaming. So far Hollywood has been slow and unsure about how to adapt. We’ve seen a few cinematic VR experiences trickling out, and some were even featured at the most recent Sundance Film Festival. But there doesn’t appear to be any uniform strategy among production studios or industry leaders as to how to handle virtual reality.