Despite the fact that viewing video is one of the technology’s leading expected use cases, gaming remains the primary use case for virtual reality (VR) headsets, according to research from Parks Associates.
parks 16 2019In its report, Virtual Reality: The Evolving Ecosystem, the firm found that consumer-reported familiarity with VR technology has stayed at approximately a quarter of US broadband households between 2017 and 2018, with gamers most likely to be familiar with this technology. Among consumers who own or are familiar with VR, 54% use their headset or would use it for gaming.

“Sixty-two per cent of US broadband households play video games, and while gamers are a passionate market segment, they can be limited in scope, which has stalled adoption of VR to a wider audience,” said Billy Nayden, research analyst, Parks Associates. “There has been some notable video content developed for VR, such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s short video experience Carne y Arena, which won an Oscar, but overall lack of quality, non-gaming content is inhibiting broader adoption.”

The report also found that content quality remains a challenge for VR headset owners, with 55% of VR headset owners feeling that content for their device has remained the same since they bought their headsets; 3% believe it has gotten worse. The report noted the main barriers for VR content development are costs, the demand for interactivity and limits on content length.

Mobile headsets are capable of playing most non-gaming content in VR but often cannot play premium games, and have much lower NPS scores than other headset types. For gamers, PC-based and game console-based systems are the primary VR headset option, though standalone VR headsets are promoted as a cost-saver. About half (52%) of headset owners report owning a smartphone-based system. PC-based systems and game console-based systems are the next most popular systems, with effectively the same adoption rate.

“The aim of standalone VR headsets is to offer much of the same premium content as game console or PC-based headsets, without the need for additional hardware like a gaming console or high-powered PC,” Nayden said. “This technology drastically reduces the cost for consumers, while providing a more premium experience than smartphone-based systems.”

In all, about 15% of US broadband households have trialled VR, with 28% of game console owners saying they are familiar with VR headsets; familiarity is even higher among owners of newer consoles.

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