The Year Ahead for Immersive Media & Entertainment

Alexis Macklin, Research Manager Imaging & Video, Insight Articles

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2018 was packed with exciting announcements, disappointing closures, and a resurgence in VR headset sales. Beat Saber defined consumer VR, Magic Leap unveiled their first product, and Google and Apple spread AR to the masses. Looking ahead, the xR industry will see positive effects on the consumer market as adoption in VR and familiarity in AR applications rises.  

Mobile AR is only getting started

Last year marked the year augmented reality hit a mass install base. With software rollouts of Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit, a vast majority of smartphones were capable of presenting highly interactive AR applications. Marketers and entertainment brands are rushing to create AR applications as a way to interact with potential customers in a new way, selling merchandise, toys, movies and TV shows.

Beyond the Pokemon Go-clones, companies are experimenting with AR applications at out-of-home entertainment venues at sporting events, movie theaters and concerts. American movie theater chain Cineplex has released an AR game that moviegoers can play with during previews before the showing.

There is a great wave of applications coming as augmented reality becomes a household term. One AR game to be released in 2019 that we expect will see mass adoption is Niantic’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The Pokemon Go creators have been teasing the title for about a year and the hype is immense, amongst one of the biggest global fan bases. The game will most likely resonate longer with Millenials, who flocked to Pokemon Go but quickly tapered off as the gameplay became stagnant. In comparison, Gen Z consistently played Pokemon Go and will likely adopt Harry Potter: Wizards Unite quickly as well.

The direction of casual VR  

Although PC-tethered headsets from HTC and Oculus offer the best consumer VR experiences, the headsets with the largest unit shipments have been inexpensive mobile-based or standalone HMDs. Consumers are still largely unfamiliar with VR technology and content offered. This has led consumers to purchase cheaper options as they are introduced to the technology.

Both Oculus and Samsung have reported that Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR users are increasingly watching canned content instead of playing interactive games. In Greenlight Insights’ 2018 VR/AR Consumer Study, 65% of respondents were interested in VR gaming while 75% of respondents were satisfied watching videos and movies in their HMD. Immersive entertainment resonates with more U.S. consumers than gaming and the low-cost headsets designed for passive content consumption will continue to be the entry-level devices sought out by consumers in 2019.

The future of consumer gaming platforms

Sony’s PlayStation VR is gaining steam. After a rather disappointing first half of 2018 in the lack of announcements for PSVR, Q4 2018 has been positive with releases of bundles featuring Beat Saber and Borderlands 2 VR and Astro Bots and Moss. With rumors of updated controllers and more exclusive titles to come, Sony looks to be planning to make PSVR more than just a gaming accessory.

Standalone headsets will have an impact on VR gaming in 2019, although the 6 DoF standalone headsets may have less of an impact in North America compared to the growing market of consumer standalone HMDs in China.

The first standalone headsets were introduced in China in 2016. This has shaped the Chinese VR consumer landscape as standalone headset manufacture Pico has been a regional market leader for the last couple of years. China’s standalone market will continue to be the biggest in the world.

In comparison, Oculus’s anticipated 2019 release of Quest, its first 6 DoF standalone headset, will see more success in Western countries. Oculus will need to release the headset with titles featuring major IP to entice consumers to invest in the new platform. ILMxLabs’ Darth Vader VR experience a great start of content to come. The next challenge will be navigating the privacy scandals of parent-company Facebook. In the wake of the privacy concerns, consumers have a general distrust of Facebook which may affect purchasing decisions of Oculus Quest at release.

Live Broadcasting will be 360-degree camera market’s biggest potential

The consumer adoption of 360- and 180-degree cameras have been far below expectations. The professional market is not doing much better. A limited number of professional filmmakers are adopting the 360-degree video platforms but prefer to rent instead of purchasing the cameras.

Live event broadcasting will be a saving grace for 360-degree cameras. With platforms like NextVR and Oculus Venues gaining popularity, broadcasters are increasingly looking at VR to extend the reach of an event. This will keep a heartbeat in the 360- and 180-degree camera industry, but the ease of use for live broadcasting will be essential to camera sales.