VR pioneer Palmer Luckey has said that no currently announced VR hardware is good enough to appeal to mainstream - even at a price of "$0.00," the existing and imminent headsets would fail to engage a big enough audience.
In a blog post titled "Free isn't cheap enough," the founder of Oculus VR argued hardware sales as a "meaningless metric" for judging the success of VR. That can only be measured through engagement, Luckey said, which is "the number of people logging in and spending money each week."
"Recent market experiments with cheap VR hardware have shown that there are millions of people willing to buy said hardware, but very few among them continue to use the hardware or invest in the software ecosystem for very long," Luckey said, apparently referring to lower priced headsets like Oculus Go.
"This is true even when people get the hardware for free - the millions of cardboard boxes fulfilling their ultimate destiny on the back shelf of a closet don't do much for the VR industry. Why the lack of use?"
"You could give a Rift+PC to every single person in the developed world for free, and the vast majority would cease to use it in a matter of weeks or months"
The reason for that, Luckey said, is "quality of experience," the very area that VR companies have compromised on to make lower-priced headsets available. These headsets can help to expand the audience for VR, Luckey said, "but not to nearly the degree many people would expect."
"I want to take this a step further and make a bold claim: No existing or imminent VR hardware is good enough to go truly mainstream, even at a price of $0.00," Luckey continued. "You could give a Rift+PC to every single person in the developed world for free, and the vast majority would cease to use it in a matter of weeks or months.
"I know this from seeing the results of large scale real-world market testing, not just my own imagination - hardcore gamers and technology enthusiasts are entranced by the VR of today, as am I, but stickiness drops off steeply outside of that core demographic.
"Free is still not cheap enough for most people, because cost is not what holds them back actively or passively."
Luckey clarified that he remains a "True Believer" that VR will become staple technology in the future, but he also set the "hypothetical ultimate ceiling" for the VR market over the next two years at 50 million active users - "and that could only happen with an unreasonable amount of investment that would be better spent on other parts of the problem."
These comments arrive shortly after Brendan Iribe announced his departure from Oculus, and CCP's Hilmar Petursson described his disappointment in the rate of growth of the VR market - despite being one of its most prominent champions at first.
You can read Rob Fahey's analysis of the current position of VR by following the link.