Gamescom, the world’s largest video game convention, concludes this weekend, but it has already left its mark with some incredible reveals and announcements. This year, one of the prominent themes includes virtual reality technology, especially given how Sony’s PlayStation VR will launch in October. Instead of giving a press conference, Sony relied on eye-catching show floor demonstrations that included Batman VR among other big-name titles.
Industry observers believe that this year is a mark-or-break time for virtual reality. However, consumers have been reluctant to adopt the hardware. According to SuperData Research, 30 percent of US consumers stated that they’d pick up a PlayStation VR when it releases. In comparison, 13 percent will get an Oculus Rift, 10 percent the Samsung Gear, 7 percent Google Cardboard, and 5 percent the HTC Vive.
The convention expects a record turnout this year, and a large part of that has to do with the immense popularity of eSports in Germany. BIU, an important digital entertainment interest group in Germany, recently announced the formation of eSports.BIU and the organization has been establishing partnerships with developers in an effort to grow eSports in the country.
Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData, spoke with [a]listdaily about the growing presence of VR and eSports at Gamescom and how the two impact the show.
How important is Gamescom to promoting PlayStation VR? How does it compare with Paris Games Week, which will take place after the product’s launch?
Because of its size and timing in August, Gamescom has traditionally been critical in building up the momentum toward the holidays. Other European conferences like Paris Games Week fall in October, leaving publishers and platforms with considerably less time to get consumers excited.
Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been on the market for months, but the PlayStation VR is getting much of the attention this holiday. Do you think a showing at Gamescom may help close the gap between these devices and the PSVR?
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive’s presence at Gamescom this year will certainly help strengthen their awareness among consumers. But any successful platform introduction requires a strong content line-up, which is what Sony has managed to do more convincingly. Our expectation is that this holiday season will go to Sony and that Facebook and Valve/HTC will ramp up more momentum in 2017.
Statistics show relatively low interest in mobile VR viewers such as the Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard. Do you think mobile still has a chance to break out as VR devices?
Because of its widespread presence, mobile VR will continue to be of value to content providers. However, as a platform, it is more limited in terms of interaction, and the audience for it are less likely to shell out hundreds of dollars. This presents a different design agenda, especially from a content perspective, but that is not unlike the differences we see between mobile, console and PC gaming elsewhere.
What do you think is needed to generate more consumer interest in VR?
Good content. An overwhelming share of the consumer audience today has no sense of the exact hardware specs or frame rate when it comes to their devices. But they do know when something sucks. So, in order for gaming VR to prosper, the industry has to emphasize a clear vision and level of quality in the content it plans to offer on its various platforms.
What kind of impact has eSports had on Gamescom?
Competitive gaming is wildly popular in Germany: it is the second largest eSports market in Europe with an audience of 2.8 million. So its presence at Gamescom makes sense because attendees love it, and it strengthens the love affair between competitive gaming and gaming culture at large now that it has managed to rise to a more mainstream form of entertainment.
What does the BIU’s strong interest in eSports indicate for the growth of the industry?
BIU has traditionally kept a relatively open mind to gaming culture, and its interest in eSports should be no surprise. For a key market like Germany, it really helps to have a large industry association with strong government ties as a partner.