There are always two sides to a story. But sometimes it’s hard to get to the root of what exactly people want – especially if you’re delivering something to a large and diverse audience. So with all the varied and heated discussions out there, we were wondering what people in the VR community really want. So we sent out a survey to help shed some light on the matter. With this survey, we wanted to see what the community as a whole agrees upon.
But that wasn’t enough – we needed to know if there really is a rift between what VR developers are delivering right now and what players want. So we created another survey and sent it out to studios who were willing to have their say.
And we found some interesting insights. Firstly, we all know that the VR industry – in terms of hardware, content and the like – has it’s problems. Many discussions have come and gone about what exactly VR is missing, or what would solidify the future of VR. But rather than speculate, let’s see what the general opinion is. So let’s dive into the details.
We surveyed the community between the 11th and 21st of May via online channels and had more than 1,000 valid responses. The VR The Gamers community, related subreddits and Facebook groups were our main sources.
In terms of the distribution of VR headsets, our respondents answered as follows:
As you can see PSVR is leading the market – which correlates with SuperData’s research report that came out earlier this year. Our survey shows a similar trend. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are following the PSVR in terms of popularity, but their total sales are less than the PSVR.
But how many games do these VR gamers own in general? That would have a large impact on how active they are in the community and how up to date they are on developments in the VR industry.
As you can see, almost 34% of the crowd owns less than 10 games. Just about as many people say that they own 11-20 VR games. 10% of our respondents said they own more than 50 games, which shows real dedication to the platform. Overall, the data shows that people are definitely interested in owning more VR content when you look at their comments, which we’ll get to in a bit.
And if you think that most of these participants are actually developers – you would be wrong. Only 8% of the more than 1000 respondents were developing VR games themselves. But we also created a survey specifically for developers to hear what they think too and we compared them.
So What Did People Have To Say?
Of all the people that answered our survey, more than 70% think that in order to grow, the virtual reality landscape needs more AAA games. But the fact that most people agree that the industry lacks AAA games doesn’t come as much of a surprise since people have been saying this on social media for a couple of months now. What did come as a surprise was that 21% of the respondents felt that impatient players are an obstacle for the VR industry. This does make sense in a way, as in impatient players cause developers to rush and the negative comments and the negative comments that come with rushed work. But impatient players also means there’s a market for the games and that leads to more investment.
As you can see from the graph above, more than 70% of people agree that VR games are too short in terms of gameplay time. While only about 55% of the developers we surveyed think so. With that comes a problem that came to light a few months ago – people refunding games when they’re done playing them. And even though it’s not an ethical move, it can be classified as a “reaction” to the games being too short.
The Great Pricing Barrier
The general consensus also agreed that hardware quality and the high price of headsets were also barriers to the industry moving forward. Although, PSVR owners were quite happy with their headsets and didn’t think price was a barrier to owning a headset. Most likely due to their headset being cheaper than its PC counterparts and due to many people owning a playstation already – which doesn’t have to get expensive upgrades for the PSVR addition.
When we looked at the age distribution of people who own VR headsets, we saw that most of our participants were between the ages of 25-31 and 32-38. This could have something to do with the high prices of VR headsets. Younger people can’t necessarily afford them as easily as older people do, but studies also show that younger people are also more willing to spend money on technology.
When we compared the age groups of people who answered our survey with the types of devices they own, it was clear that younger people tend to go more for the cheaper alternatives like PSVR and GearVR compared to the older groups. This confirms that younger people do indeed have a bigger problem with the prices of headsets than older people do. Which just makes plain sense.
Popular Opinion Rules, But Everyone’s Still Got Their Own Idea On What’s Best For VR
Some of the participants also shared their opinions on the industry. Popular opinions that we received numerous times were “headsets need to be more comfortable”; and “VR support should be added to existing games”. But on the other hand, we also saw lots of comments like this one: “We need more creative ideas and not just old game mechanics with added VR functionality!”.
And some developers certainly agree on that last part. “VR is a new medium and the sooner we can stop trying to translate traditional pc/console (monitor based) games into VR and start learning what games for VR really are, the sooner we’ll see the expectations of VR gamers become more aligned with what developers can deliver against. For example, I wouldn’t use Photoshop in VR and complain about it being a flat experience…. I’d use Tilt Brush,” said an anonymous developer.
So there is definitely still a division amongst gamers – and between them and developers – as to what the right course of action for VR content developers should be. But one thing almost all of the player participants agreed on was that they are tired of ‘wave shooters’ and that some genres like ‘Horror’ are getting over-crowded, while other genres like ‘Adventure’, are deprived of content.
It seems the VR community is positive overall, though. Most of the developers who answered our survey said that they haven’t seen many toxic comments or undue negativity so far. They agree that the VR community has been empowering and supportive so far. “I’ve actually found the VR community to be amazing!!“ said an anonymous developer. This can have something to do with the fact that people in the VR community are early adopters. Which means the community isn’t extremely large yet and that it mostly consists of people who are patient and want to see a new technology develop. But if you look back to the player agreement graph  above, the community is pretty divided over whether gamers are supportive enough of VR content developers.
Are Players Unnecessarily Critical? Not Necessarily
While there seemed to be an overall agreement on the positivity of the community, an astonishing 78% of these developers feel that players are being more critical of VR content because they have become used to high quality games from the PC/Console markets. Some felt that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and that quality should play an important part in VR games. But one developer said that “gamers should be educated on the capabilities of the technology and content creators. We are at a normal stage for a tech cycle”. This sentiment has been reiterated a couple of times in the other responses we got.
“Gamers expect first-gen VR games to be on par, both graphically and mechanically, as 8th-gen flatscreen games. If you take a look at how much gaming has progressed from the PS One era onwards alone, you can see that it takes time for certain design ideas to properly take form. Take the 3rd-person camera, for example. It took multiple different game releases across several years to really refine that from first concept to established mechanic, however nowadays we take consistent, fully functioning third-person over-the-shoulder cameras for granted. The same is true for VR games – it’s only one year on from VR’s commercial release and we’re still figuring out this new medium’s language, so to speak,” said George Kelion, Senior Communications Lead for VR Games.
“VR developers should be making great quality games to the highest possible standards. Players expect this, but unfortunately, high quality games take time to make and are expensive to develop. Unfortunately [the] number of sales of VR headsets just aren’t that high yet, so it is tough for VR developers to see a return on their investment. This should change over time as the VR market grows, although discoverability continues to remain a big problem for developers,” said Richard Bang, VR Games Designer from Freekstorm.
Still, when we asked the developers whether if they think that current technology and the VR headsets we have at our disposal right now allow for content that is on par with PC/Console gaming standards, 50% said yes. Which seems rather counter-intuitive.
And finally, we asked developers whether they think releasing a game in Early Access had a positive or negative impact on the VR industry. Most developers agreed, but some said that Early Access can indeed have a very negative impact on developers and the industry as a whole. Early Access can be bad for VR content’s reputation amongst gamers. “because VR games are so hard to make, often there are quite a few games in EA that simply don’t get finished, which leads to disillusionment on all sides,” said Richard Bang, VR Games Designer at Freekstorm.
It seems that developers and players are mostly in agreement over the industry as a whole, as well as VR content. Almost all of the developers stated in their surveys that listening to the gaming community and getting feedback about their games was one of the most important parts of their development cycle. There are disagreements about certain subjects of course. Like whether existing games should be ported to VR or whether developers should focus on creating wholly new experiences.
Overall though, I think we’re still on the right track towards making VR more mainstream. Right now we are still very much in the ‘early adopter phase’ and the industry still needs to make that jump over the chasm to the ‘early majority phase’.
Many participants also left comments of excitement for the future of VR. So I think we can all agree that this is a time where experimentation and creativity can flourish in the VR landscape. We also created a more in-depth Survey Report with a detailed breakdown of all the survey results, which you can download for free.