In an on-stage appearance at yesterday's Oculus Connect keynote, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg warned that virtual reality might grow slowly at first. It was a sentiment echoed by Oculus VP of product Nate Mitchell in an interview with Gamasutra published today.
While Oculus is convinced of VR's potential to change the world, Mitchell said history has shown that new technology generally doesn't do that overnight.
"At the end of the day, I think that if you look at many of the most successful consumer hardware products of all time, most of them sold in the very low millions of units in their first year -- especially new product categories, things like Kindle and iPod. They sold in the hundreds of thousands in their first generation," Mitchell said.
The two big challenges that Mitchell said most needed to be addressed were content and price. While people might have their minds blown by an impressive VR demo, they still need good content to justify investing in the tech and have it as a permanent fixture in their homes. To start with, Mitchell expects that content to come from small developers and indies interested in the possibilities of VR and able to take risks their larger counterparts can't.
"If we can sell enough that developers start being successful and they can reinvest in the system," Mitchell said, "we can start the cycle and kick start the chicken-and-the-egg problem. I think we can make this thing into a thriving ecosystem."
If enough small developers give people a reason to buy the system, then there may be an installed base big enough to justify the larger players investing in VR games and content at the multimillion dollar level.
Oculus can help make that happen working from two directions. First, it can by promote developers making VR-specific games and fostering innovation in the community. Second, it can make the hardware increasingly affordable over time.
"Price is going to be one of the biggest barriers to entry," Mitchell said. "It's just not going to be some insane, insane console launch, but if we can build this thing year over year and keep growing the community and the ecosystem, then we can make VR that changes the world."