VR Studio: “Stand-alone beats PC VR” – that has consequences
VR studios have had far more success with Meta Quest 2 than with PC VR. That could have long-term consequences.
Over the weekend, studio Bit Planet Games wrote via Twitter that its own flight game Ultrawings 2 made almost ten times as much revenue on Meta Quest 2 (Review) as on PC VR platforms, i.e. Steam and Viveport. The studio claims that Ultrawings 2 was first developed for PC VR and only then ported to Meta Quest 2, which was “tremendously painful” due to technical challenges.
The studio’s point with the tweet is that it did not make any platform-related compromises. An investment that, one might conclude, didn’t pay off.
“The players have spoken. Standalone VR is far more successful than PC VR,” the studio writes.
Quest 2: Good and bad for PC VR.
This state of affairs is nothing new. In the Quest ecosystem, more than 120 VR apps have grossed more than $1 million (as of February 2022). In the PC VR space, you rarely hear about such successes.
Denny Unger, CEO of Cloudhead Games (best known for Pistol Whip) sums up where the stark disparity comes from: “Standalone removes critical friction points for market entry, hence the overall above-average success.” In simpler terms, Meta Quest 2 is cheaper and less complicated to use, which is where the stronger interest comes from.
Standalone removes critical friction points to entry, hence its overall outbalanced success. What no one really wants to hear is how quickly the gap between PCVR & standalone will actually close. What is succeeding is ultimately what consumers want.
– Denny Unger @CloudheadGames? (@DennyCloudhead) July 25, 2022
The stand-alone device is so dominant in the VR market that it now makes up for every other VR headset used with SteamVR. The success of Meta Quest 2 is both a curse and a blessing for the PC VR market. The VR headset simultaneously drains and provides new users. Nevertheless, there is no significant user growth because the higher entry barrier (gaming computer) remains. Only the VR headset became cheaper and more widespread.
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The current market dynamics: A vicious circle
PC VR focus or not, Ultrawings 2 does not explore the possibilities of the PC VR platform. At least not in terms of graphics. And that is precisely the underlying problem.
For PC VR to grow, the platform needs exclusive games that can only exist in this form for PC VR. Games that are more beautiful, bigger, and more complex.
Developers usually target the market and platform where they make the most money. Mobile VR will remain that market and platform for the foreseeable future. So, exclusive PC VR titles are becoming increasingly rare, which in turn stunts the growth of the PC VR market. This is a vicious circle whose consequences will be felt for a long time to come.
Possible ways out: Playstation VR and cloud streaming
Playstation VR 2 could break this spell, but only if Sony’s VR ecosystem catches up with Meta Quest’s. At first glance, this is unlikely because the entry barrier is higher: Gamers need a Playstation 5 and even more expensive VR accessories.
In any case, such a market development will probably take years. If it does not succeed, VR games will continue to be developed with the lowest common denominator in mind, and that is mobile VR. One possible consequence is that the much lower performance limit – to a certain extent – inhibits innovation.
Eventually, it is hoped, standalone VR and PC VR will come together again thanks to cloud streaming. The performance gap would then be closed, and virtual reality could finally combine the best of both worlds: the simplicity of standalone VR and the strengths of PC VR. This would return virtual reality to its full potential. Such a solution is still a long way off, even though Meta is already working towards it.