One Reason Why VR is Failing and Still a Niche Market

I’m going to say it now out loud: VR GAMES PRICES ARE TOO HIGH!

There are so many VR games out there for Rift and Quest that are short experiences that developers ask for 1/3 or half the price of a triple-A title. The problem is for new users is that they want to experiment with many types of games to see what they like. However, they can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars doing so.

There are some demos but they are limited. Many of those which you find on SideQuest isn’t good but at least it’s a place where we can try out some early access games without paying a higher price for that.

If you look at the mobile practices, in mobile you can try everything as most of the games are free. However, they are being monetized in either microtransaction, subscription services, ads, etc.

Now before you shout at me saying that devs should earn from their hard work, of course, they are. However, this is like shooting yourself in the leg. This is one of the reasons why VR doesn’t move forward. Look at the store, Beat Saber is staring at the top for like 2 years. The same goes to other successful games. This just shows the problem with the VR market and how stuck it is in its current state.

Of course, it would be nice to have some free apps in exchange for in-app advertisements, however, in VR, these type of ads sucks. Probably why no one use them. There are companies who can implement ads in the 3D space but apparently, the views and leads are so low that no one wants them.

Why not use microtransactions? Because most of those games people will stop playing in a few hours. So developers found themselves in a situation where the only way they can earn money is by selling their app. And problem is that some put the price high because they get very few $ of their investment, so maybe a few sales can cover the costs, and hopefully, the game succeeds.

If the game succeeds, they might reduce the price at a certain point to attracts more users and some sell DLCs for a price to continue earning from their popular title.

If you look at the Oculus free section for Rift game, you can see Minecraft, Bigscreen, Google Earth VR, VR Chat, Echo VR, Epic Roller Coasters — some of these games are there for many months even years. There is little of those “Free apps” to replace them. It’s like they are stuck in a time machine loop that never progresses.

A successful VR app market would have plenty of those but because it’s hard to monetize a VR game in other ways, that’s what we have. Now you can compare it to regular non-VR PC Games, but their the selection is huge. It’s not comparable. Even many of these VR experiences are close to mini-games, not fully-pledged games.

This is why games like Half-Life: Alyx conquered the market and are considered the best VR game. But have you seen many triple-A companies putting effort into bringing something more complete—a few tried–probably failed hard and just dropped it altogether.

Those who actually were released, there are pretty good games out there like Lone Echo, Superhot VR, Robo Recall, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond—but still, VERY limited selection.

It’s not just about the comfort, the hassle of using the headset, the expensive entry for PC VR games that make VR a niche market, it’s the crazy game prices for very short experiences that you don’t even get a chance to taste free before you buy. How one knows if they like a certain game, know if it’s comfortable for them?

What happens is that people are VERY PICKY in games that they buy. This means they save the money for the games that they know that they have a high chance to enjoy and based on previous reviews. Very few will preorder a VR game and if it is, probably from a big publisher and a highly anticipated game—few of those.

It’s very hard to sell a VR experience anyway because you can’t see it in 3D/VR, just as a video. What those promotional videos do is WAY OVER EXAGGERATE the experience, selling in many cases a false premise. But this is the only way to make you want to play their game as the gameplay itself probably won’t do that. So they shout, show themselves having SO MUCH FUN like they are at the top of Everest.

Fact is, not many VR games are fun, and those who are, skyrocket and get most of the attention. It’s very easy to stand out in the crowd where there are so many crappy games out there. No pun intended. It’s like digging in a pile of trash trying to find a rare gem.

Now not all is bad of course but seeing how slow VR is progressing is frustrating for a fan of the tech. Maybe if there was a way to help developers monetize their apps better so more people can try their games. There are probably great games out there that might die of others not trying them because of the high prices.

If you go to the VR store, most of the games are paid apps and few have demos. So what are you going to do? Buy one, not like it, buy second… Oh well, this is not good either—next game you are going to think 20 times before making a purchase.

Luckily we have VR game reviews so we get a taste of what it’s like. I think why developers must share keys and get in touch with influencers in order to make their game seen, understand, and be promoted. And indeed that’s what many developers do because they know how HARD it is to promote a VR game. I think if a developer believes in their app, they should release a demo, even a short one. If I was a VR game developer, that what I would do if I knew my game is good. Why wouldn’t I?

Unless I think that my game is not good. I think we also need more demos to be released for games. I respect those who do and what I try any demo I come across. Some lead me to buy games because they were very good.

The tough reality for virtual reality. But at least we are moving forward.