It appears that some of the air may be leaking out of the VR bubble. On the heels of Vrideo shutting down in November, last week brought the news that enterprise VR startup Envelop would be shutting down. If that wasn’t enough, rumors are circulating that another well-funded and well-known platform is facing cuts and a hiring freeze. The news out of CES wasn’t great, either, with reports of underwhelming experiences, and too many people still seeing VR as a novelty.
That said, it’s no time to panic. Growing pains are natural and normal for any technology, but this also points to the need to get more brand decisionmakers in headsets. No one wants to buy a headset and then have nothing to watch. Engaging more top brands with the technology will mean more investment in interesting VR content.
The news wasn’t all doom-and-gloom last week, however. Live Nation’s partnership with Hulu to create an original series is a smart move that could bring VR to a wider audience given Live Nation’s diverse roster of artists. Leading off with VR early adopter Lil’ Wayne also opens possibilities to birthing future partnerships between the technology and the hip hop genre, too. Immersive music videos and concerts like those put on by Kanye West and others could provide unique opportunities to both grow VR’s audience and create valuable experiences for fans.
Next VR’s announcement that it will introduce paid live events drew lots of attention last week, but also seems a little premature. Live streaming events in VR is still a tricky proposition, mostly due to bandwidth issues beyond the control of the VR firm. And while adoption is growing, headset ownership hasn’t reached the stage where this could be seen as profitable quite yet.
One wonders what the economics of this look like for NextVR — mounting a VR presentation of a live event isn’t cheap, nor easy, and given low adoption rates, it’s hard to see many people paying for events at this juncture. That said, this is a worthwhile step forward in terms of training people to think about VR events as something they should be paying for, and if the events are worthwhile, they could lead to social sharing and word-of-mouth that drives more headset purchases.
This week, we’ll be looking forward to news coming out of Sundance, where VR is sure to be a hot topic.
On Friday, we provided a detailed recap of the week’s VR/AR business stories which we produce with our partner Vertebrae, the VR/AR monetization platform and ad network. Here’s an analysis of the top stories in VR/AR heading into this week.