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VR/AR to "rival the internet" - Riccitiello

Unity boss kicks off the Vision Summit, noting the success and opportunity in the burgeoning VR/AR market

In an opening speech to kick off the 2017 Vision Summit today (watch the live stream here), Unity CEO John Riccitiello gave a rah-rah style talk to the audience of developers that the tool maker caters to with its business. Making analogies to the console business where hardware makers like Sony and Nintendo and Microsoft have created the opportunity, Riccitiello stressed that game makers like Ubisoft and his old company EA essentially made the industry; and that's what he sees happening with VR, as the developers run with the opportunity generated by Oculus, HTC and others to effectively create the VR industry.

The content created for the VR marketplace may not come from behemoths, however. Riccitiello said it's wrong to assume that VR/AR will be dominated by huge firms like Disney. Similar to the mobile ecosystem, when the iPhone first came out, giants like Supercell and Machine Zone did not exist. Riccitiello believes that VR offers an opportunity to "be that next-generation company."

There's been much talk about the so-called "gap of disappointment" over the last year, especially as the VR marketplace has fallen short of what analysts had initially estimated. That said, Riccitiello pointed out that even though some had forecast a market worth $5 billion in year one, the actual VR industry generated $2.5 billion in its first year, with a start from zero. "That's absolutely staggering," he enthused. "Can you think of any industry that's done that? The opportunity is huge."

Indeed, Riccitiello continued to criticize analysts' estimates for industries in general, noting that they made the same mistake at the dawn of the internet, believing it would be a simple sector of the economy, when of course the reality is that it now drives the economy. Riccitiello believes that VR/AR is on a similar trajectory to have an impact as great as the internet itself. "It will rival the internet. It's going to be the size of everything," he said.

Riccitiello said that the three main things that are absolutely necessary to push VR to huge mainstream adoption are price (total cost of headset and computer/GPU needs to come down to under $1,000), mobility (VR will eventually be 100% mobile), and content (100m devices are needed in the marketplace to drive more content generation). He said that he's seen the pieces and that they come together starting in 2018. The market will really begin to accelerate in 12-24 months, he remarked, and it's "going to satisfy all of our greatest ambitions."

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