AR and VR are marketplaces suffering from a crippling supply-side deficiency
The technology is here, but owning VR kit now is like owning a first-gen, pre-Appstore iPhone.
You don’t have to go to many accelerator demo days to realise that there’s no shortage of marketplace plays in the startup world. It makes sense, too: Marketplaces, when they work, are a licence to print a huge quantity of money. You don’t have to look further than Uber, the iTunes App Store or Kickstarter to see exactly why this works so well — but only if you can balance supply and demand in a meaningful way. Walking that balance is, by far, the hardest thing about figuring out a successful marketplace.
The technology is here, but owning VR kit now is like owning a first-gen, pre-Appstore iPhone
I was deeply impressed by the HoloLens last week, and I’ve been poking around in VR for quite a while longer, but something has been nagging at me ever since I wrote that post. This morning, it came to me: I’ve been looking at VR all wrong. Yes, the tech is interesting per se, but looking at the space as a technological advancement is completely and utterly missing the point. It’s like cooing over 4K televisions and projectors but sidestepping the fact that there’s, realistically, extremely little 4K content available.
In other words: Yes, VR is getting really interesting, and we are at a point now that we’re starting to see commercial products being released in this space, but realistically, this is not the end of the development, but rather the beginning.
If they haven’t invested in both, hard-core gamers may be loyal to the Playstation or Xbox platform. Casual gamers, however, couldn’t give a furry-tailed rodent’s arse about whether their console says Sony or Microsoft on the label. They don’t even care about the user experience of each console — not really. They care only about one thing: what games are available? A very similar choice is soon going to face people who are trying to make a choice regarding which VR platform they are investing their hard-earned into.
Both AR and VR definitely have a place in our reality-enhanced futures. The reality, however, is that we are starting to get het up about platforms that are woefully lacking in content. It’s like being the first person on the block to have bought a LaserDisk player. Yes, it was cool to have shiny, vinyl-sized discs that you have to turn over half-way through the film to watch the second half of the movie, but the excitement quickly wore off when you had watched the half-a-dozen titles that were available at the time.
VR, it appears, is a marketplace with a crippling supply-side deficiency, and that’s a tricky one to deal with. Or, to put it in the words of Y Combinator: Marketplaces are fucking hard. The technology is here, but right now, buying into VR is like being one of six thousand people trying to buy stuff on eBay, but there’s nothing listed but some bulk packs of ear-plugs and some broken terracotta figurines. It’s like buying a car before there were gas stations everywhere. It’s like owning a first-gen, pre-appstore iPhone.
In short: The biggest elephant in the room is that yes, AR & VR technology may just about be ready for prime-time. Now we just need the content to make it all worth while.
The hard challenge is over. Now the even harder challenge begins.