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VR trends 2017: this is what will be big in VR next year

Neil Bennett | Dec. 19, 2016
AMD’s Roy Taylor discusses what’s going to be big for VT in 2017 – location-based VR, more complex content, and experiences good enough you’ll be willing to pay for them.

"A key issue we have is that modern content today costs around a million dollars a minute to make. Interestingly, it's the same for whether it's [a game like] Battlefield 1 or [a movie such as] Ghostbusters. You've got to find a business model which will support those levels of investment. If you only have an installed base of four or eight million that's not big enough for you to go and get revenue of say $400-600 million.

"Roughly speaking, both games and movies are looking at a 4-to-1 ratio, so you spend a 100 million to make it you want to make 400 million. That's how you cover other costs. We need a bigger installed base."

Location-based VR

The best way to get more people to use VR, says Roy, is what the industry calls 'location-based VR'. This is a catchall term for high-end VR experiences that take place outside your home using VR kit provided by the theme park, museum, shopping centre, cinema, film festival or games arcade that they're located in. Notable examples we've covered include the Game of Thrones exhibition experience, the BBC's Spacewalk (below, which debuted at DocFest in Sheffield), and the VR rollercoaster ride at Six Flags in the US.

These not only make money for the content creators - assuming that audiences are willing to pay extra to experience them, as they used to for '4D' rides and arcade games - but if they're done well, they encourage people to buy the hardware to have their own VR experiences at home. And if enough of them do, that's when VR becomes 'a thing' rather than a niche pastime.

Hardware alone can't achieve mainstream success for VR - compelling experiences is what really makes the difference between VR being a fad like, arguably, 3D and a must-have-that-becomes-the-norm like HD. Loving what you play/experience builds the word-of-mouth that spreads the medium virally, like playing WipeOut on the PlayStation round a friend's house in the early 90s made us all want to go buy PlayStations.

While we've seen a lot of VR content from companies with backgrounds in games, post-production, VFX and film - it's the latter that Roy thinks likely will produce the best VR experiences in the immediate future. It's not that the others can't - he cites Bethesda's VR version of Fallout 4 (below) as one of the best VR experiences around - it's just that filmmakers have the most experience at telling the compelling stories that will really engage people.

"The film industry knows how to use technology to tell stories. They've been doing that for a 120 years. I just spent the morning with 200 of them [at an event at BAFTA] and they're very keen on the technology - as long as it's used to help tell the story, not get in the way.


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