HTC vs. Oculus – Is HTC Winning The Race?

A recent State of the Industry Survey at the fifth annual Game Developers Conference has revealed some interesting developments. The past year we’ve constantly seen HTC vs. Oculus showdowns. It seems that the content development community are swinging more towards HTC’s Vive, leaving Oculus in the dust.

This reveals much, especially since we haven’t had much to go on in terms of headset sales yet. So while we’re still waiting on some official, comparable figures from the major VR headset makers, we can take a look at where developers themselves are hedging their bets.

The Game Developers Conference

Every year developers gather at the multi-day event to share their projects, works in progress and to speak on and observe in-depth panel discussions. It’s also a great networking opportunity, where devs can absorb knowledge and take inspiration from the industry at large.

Every year, there’s also a State of the Industry Survey. The survey always takes place before the conference starts and polls attendees at the conference every year. The GDC, through the survey, intends to help people gain insight into the current and future state of game development. This includes funding, trends and popular platforms. Roughly 4500 game developers took part in the poll this year, compared to 2000 last year.

The Game Developers Conference takes place in San Francisco from February 27th till March 3rd this year. The Expo takes place from March 1st to 3rd. Want to go? You can register for the event on the GDC website.

The 2017 GDC State of the Industry Survey Results

Amongst various other revelations within the gaming industry, the survey has revealed much about the state of the VR industry right now. Especially when compared to last year’s survey.

According to the survey in 2016, Oculus dominated the scene in terms of conversation and content development. Last year’s figures show that 19% of developers were working on an Oculus Rift game while HTC saw about 6% of developers working on a Vive game. But this year the game has shifted somewhat as HTC has not only caught up but has managed to overtake Oculus.

This year about 24% of the surveyed respondents said that they were actively developing content for VR platforms. When asked which platforms developers were creating content for right now, the percentages show that HTC is only 1% ahead of Oculus at 24%.

The survey also questioned these developers on their future VR development plans and asked them if their next game will be exclusive to any platform. About 11% said yes. Of those, 33% said that their next game will be developed exclusively the Vive, while only 24% said that their next title will be an Oculus exclusive. The PS VR got 15% and Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR came in tied at 9%.

The Vive also takes the cake when it comes to developer interest. When asked which platform interests them the most 45% of developers said the HTC Vive – compared to 30% for the Oculus Rift. That’s a big jump from last year when 40 percent said the Oculus Rift interests them more and 26 percent said HTC Vive.

There’s no doubt about it, HTC definitely won this round at the GDC – having surpassed the Oculus and all other headsets in the survey.

When it comes to the longevity of the VR/AR industry, the answer was split 75/25 in favor of VR and AR becoming a long-term, sustainable business. Some developers were asked to elaborate on their opinion and two of them had the following to say; “A concentrated focus on improving HMD functionality, un-encumbering the user, and providing meaningful experiences is giving AR/VR a real shot at sticking around,” wrote one respondent. “At the moment, the hardware is still too expensive,” wrote another. “Software is only coming because of first-party funding; once that dries up, I am concerned that there won’t be a large enough install base.”

It seems that opinions are split on the matter, but that the feeling is overall positive. Feelings towards Oculus, however, are taking a steep nosedive right now, just like their stock prices.

The Oculus vs. ZeniMax case

Having gone on for about three years now, the massive lawsuit between Oculus and game publisher, Zenimax, along with the HTC Vive and PS VR launches have made Oculus’s stock (Oculus Visiontech Inc.) prices decline at a steady rate over the past year.

Oculus stock prices over the past year [marketwatch]

Now, with the case coming to a head, in a very public trial in a Texas court today, everyone is seeing Zenimax accusing Oculus VR of stealing trade secrets for its virtual reality ambitions. But this case has been dragging on under the scrutiny of the public for about a year now, which must be a PR nightmare for the Oculus team. It also can’t be doing any favors to their sales or game developer interest – since the case is between them and a game publisher.

We Spoke to Some Devs, to Hear Their Opinions

We spoke to a couple of developers and asked them the following questions:

  1. Which platform (Oculus, HTC Vive, PS VR) do you prefer for your next game?
  2. What are the reasons behind your decision?

Dennis Adamo, COO from SpaceoutVR:

  1. We focus on Mobile VR – Cardboard (iOS and Android), and Google Daydream VR and Samsung Gear VR
  2. The broader market of smartphone users represents a wider market of over 1.2B potential audience. The cost of good VR development on Premium VR platforms outweighs the potential to generate revenue on a consistent basis.

Alen Ladavac, CTO from Croteam:

  1. We are developing for both Vive and Rift. We’ve looked into PSVR, but are not developing for it at the moment.
  2. Vive and Rift are very similar in terms of technology and experience, so there’s not much difference from a developer perspective. Some people may prefer one or another based on ergonomics (i.e. different shapes of faces are better fit by different headsets) and other subjective factors, and there’s a difference in tracking area but otherwise for most games they are equivalent. PSVR at the moment is problematic for us because we are pushing the limits of hardware on the PC, so we are not sure if we could pull off the required performance on the PS4.

Asena Aksayim, Lead Developer from CBILAB VR Studios:

  1. Both devices carry us a step further on virtual reality technology, so it’s difficult to pick between them. But if I have to pick one of them, I would prefer the HTC Vive.
  2. HTC Vive provides us with the ability to take advantage of the physical movement area, that is almost a 15×15 foot space. This gives people more intense experiences. I believe that using the physical area will be important in virtual reality games and applications. Plus, if you don’t have any space for HTC Vive’s sensor, you can use it like the Rift too.

Well, it looks like there’s still quite the difference of opinion between developers. And while this survey did provide a lot of insight, the game is still new and headset manufacturers are only now finding their footing. Thus, while we have some speculative data to work with this year, the Game Developers Conference of 2018 might provide the actual proof we need to see which headset wins out over the rest.

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