Virtual and (to a lesser extent) augmented reality are dominating conversations across GDC 2016. Game designer Jesse Schell's talk, which served up 40 predictions for the technologies to an eager audience, was so popular that the room was completely packed beyond capacity 20 minutes before his presentation was planned to start; GDC organizers provided an overflow room for the remainder and even that room was almost filled to its limit. Game developers are clearly hungry for information on VR and AR and Schell was happy to oblige with his take on where it's all headed in the next several years.
Here's a quick overview of his predictions:
1. This isn't some fad, it's going to stay. VR headsets in the market permanently starting this year.
2. By the end of 2017, 8 million gamer headsets (meaning console/PC) will be sold. Schell adds it up as follows: 4 million PlayStation VR headsets, 3 million Oculus Rifts, and 1 million Vives.
3. Schell said that "it's like all of us have entered into a great conspiracy to bore gamers to death" and they are ready to buy new stuff. In general, there will be four mobile headsets for each gamer headset, he said.
4. Headset sales are going to double each year until saturation is reached, so by 2022 there will be 512 million gamer headsets and 2 billion mobile VR headsets.
5. As VR becomes more popular, 50 different headsets will be featured at CES 2017.
6. As soon as Sony sells 10 million headsets, MS will probably announce one for Xbox One, maybe at E3 2018.
7. By 2022, the majority of VR revenue will be spent on portable self-contained VR systems that are not mobile or PC VR. "Imagine if you strapped a DS to your face, it's like that or imagine if the virtual boy didn't suck." They'll be gaming devices and won't have cords all over the place. "I would bet Nintendo is working on one," Schell said.
8. An asymmetric party game will be a top 10 VR game by end of 2017 - probably on Sony VR.
9. Madden 2018 will have a VR edition.
10. By end of 2018, a new VR-centric game genre will appear.
11. By end of 2017, media will blame at least one mass shooting on a VR game. "I'm looking at you Bullet Train."
12. By end of 2017, news stories about VR addiction will be frequent.
13. By end of 2018, there will be at least three Hollywood movies that play on our fears of VR.
14. By 2025, VR home movies will be our most treasured possessions.
15. Documentaries will be the first VR films to win major awards.
16. By 2020, VR porn will be a $1 billion industry worldwide. "It turns out breasts are three dimensional," Schell joked.
17. By 2020, there will be at least 10 VR reality shows.
18. The Divine Comedy will provide a model for successful VR storytelling. Dante knew the answer - Virgil is there to guide Dante through Hell. The idea of having a person there with you is very powerful in VR and it will be the dominant mode of storytelling in VR.
19. By end of 2018, Comcast will have a VR channel - in response Fios will have two.
20. For feature films to work in VR they will need to be social. We'll figure out how to have friends watch with you by 2025.
21. By 2025, the majority of VR revenue will be from social experiences.
22. By 2018, one of the top 10 VR games will be a dance game.
23. By 2025, board games will be a $100 million business in VR/AR.
24. By end of 2020, at least one VR MMO will have more than 1 million subscribers. F2P interrupts your experience but people will pay for subscriptions again in VR - the most important part will be the social aspect. VR is the only medium that lets you make eye contact - you can't do that on Skype. VR MMO going to be a big deal, Schell said.
25. By end of 2018, there will be a leading VR social platform and it won't be the old guard (meaning not Facebook, despite its Oculus purchase).
26. By 2018, VR emotes will be very popular and they'll have a stupid name.
27. By 2017, every US state fair will have a VR attraction.
28. Schell said that Rule No.1 in location-based entertainment is you have to give people something they can't get at home. His prediction for 2020 was there there would be 20 VR roller coasters worldwide. He thought of that prediction last year and now it's already happened - there are currently 24...
29. Schell said to look at bowling alleys because they are location-based entertainment that's managed to stand the test of time. Use that as your economic guide. By 2025, bowling with AR glasses will be a real thing
30. By 2025, AR market will be dominated by video AR systems like Vrvana Totem and Google Tango.
31. AR experiences synced with your TV will be a thing - stuff will come out of the TV screen, probably commercials, he joked.
32. AR lectures are going to be really popular by 2025 - very powerful teaching tool, will start at colleges.
33. By 2025, chasing phantoms in your house will be primarily for children; Schell doesn't see it as a genre that will remain appealing for adults.
34. By 2018, gamers will wear narrow glasses to be comfortable with headsets.
35. Gamers who are really hardcore will get custom lenses to screw into their VR headsets.
36. By 2018, eye-tracking VR headsets will be available.
37. By 2020, foveated rendering (which leverages how human vision actually works) will exist and by 2025 it will be really useful.
38. By 2025, there will be no more corded VR systems.
39. Noting that touchable things move product (e.g. Skylanders franchise), Schell said People will want to touch the objects that they see in VR. So by 2020, trackable props for VR/AR will be commonly sold.
40. Related to the above, robots will first come into the home to serve as VR companions, Schell said. For example, you are in VR and you go into the dungeon and a robot companion brings out physical props to allow you to feel brick texture or wooden texture, or to pick up an axe. By 2025, "robots will touch you in VR and you'll like it," Schell concluded.