A GEARVR NEWS SPECULATION PIECE
Everywhere one looks on the Net these days, you’ll see Google’s first serious VR project entitled Daydream being touted as the “GearVR Killer” or the end of “this little Oculus mobile experiment”. From one site to the next, so many seem to be fearfully extolling Google’s Daydream as some unstoppable juggernaut with the power to shatter the GearVR with one fell slice of its virtual sword. Haha, I find this emotionalism tedious and pointless to wander into even from day one of this Google hype train. This is because GearVR has never had any real competition before, but competition is more often good for business, especially for us the end users …. as this article will explain.
GearVR’s always been there just for, and by, itself, without any natural competitors. And without competition, businesses tend to wander around at whatever pace they want, answerable to no one but themselves. And if that situation results in slow progress updates, poor innovation, skimping on hardware necessities like a fan, comfort, and performance, in order to just get in the door at all, what can anyone even do about it? Nothing. You can write angry letters to Samsung or Oculus, but that doesn’t change a thing really. Only a competitor can make your company work harder, fight harder, to keep our business. Enter a Daydream…. Google’s GearVR-like HMD designed to challenge the GearVR. This has the GearVR industry so worked up and nervous and acting like it’s the end, when I feel this is just where the beginning finally truly starts.
Unlike many others, I consider Daydream to be the GearVR’s best friend. Sure, they are destined to have a strained best-friend relationship (as if fighting over the same girlfriend: i.e.: US end users), but this dynamic can only help us out more in the long run. This is like the introduction of a 2nd shark into a tank full of fish, with only one other shark. One that’s had free reign to eat its fill and never begin to go hungry, or ever need to sharpen its teeth. Samsung has been unable to even create enough hardware in this first basic run of VR, in a market with so much demand no one can even fill it. Even as basic as it is, lots of people still want it because its still so awesomely compelling despite its flaws. And while the GearVR has always been so much better than Cardboard, I believe that it’s been Cardboard that’s truly help shore up the GearVR … this to Google’s deep chagrin.
Cardboard was something easy for almost anyone to use, something almost any Android user can try out without needing a dedicated (and expensive) S6, Note 5, or S7 phone. Cardboard got so many people in the door better than anything else out there. But once in the door, the inexpensive device could not keep these people satisfied with its poor performance, driving them to look elsewhere, to find the GearVR right there waiting for them. Cardboard unwittingly helped to create the desire for better VR, enticing people to shop around until stumbling over the GearVR with its more accurate sensors and stabilization technologies that Cardboard couldn’t offer. It was a grand experiment, one which ultimately lined Samsung’s VR war chest along with Oculus.
In fact, Cardboard probably sold more GearVR’s than all of Oculus or Samsung’s efforts combined. And that’s more than likely the real reason Google realized it had to create Daydream. They were steering their fish (their customers) right into Samsung’s open nets. Samsung just kept making more CE1’s, because they never had to fight to earn the business. They never had to innovate beyond their initial device. They never had to advertise the device, as it was the only one capable of delivering even a decent experience at this opening stage. This let them capture all of the business of people disillusioned with Cardboard who needed something just a bit more stable, smooth, and graphically superior. GearVR was that outlet. Daydream is a step, therefore, by Google, to keep their fish from swimming into the only other pond (speaking on mobile terms).
Now that there is going to be a competition, Samsung will have to work harder to keep users happy. This is the best possible news, as I feel Oculus has been lazy about their patches, lazy about creating customization options for Oculus Home, lazy about finding cool ways for us to actually use the “Friends” list they added 6 months ago, which at this stage is entirely without any function at all. Add friends for no reason, we can’t even message them, it’s just devoid…. that’s all we’ve got there.
The competition at this point to us means more consistent updates. Probably even a direct news service with short blurbs about what games and exciting apps are coming, to keep people from jumping ship early as they look toward Daydream. This also probably means finally releasing those positional and hand/finger tracking systems they’ve promised since day one but which have failed to ever materialize. This also means if Google offers something more in its Home Screen, Oculus will have to try and match it. If Daydream comes with cool customization features, Oculus will have to match them, too. Any innovation the one does to gain an advantage will have to be beaten, or at the least copied, in order to stay even in keeping interest high and being seen as the top dog in VR. This can only help us, the end users, because Oculus will have to work harder to give us what we want, or we could just leave GearVR for Daydream.
Google has entirely different manufacturers, so now the amount of VR devices possible will double, meaning we might actually be able to deliver all of the devices people want to buy. This could mean no more market monopolization due to lack of resources (or dare I say artificial scarcity, another horrendous tactic used by CEO’s when consumers have no other options). Now that there are more devices than people willing to buy them, choice will finally factor into the decision not only to enter into VR, but to stay in VR with the device one has bought. If Oculus and Samsung are too slow to answer Google’s Daydream with an update of their own, they will begin to lose customers, market share, and value. This means they will be driven hard to offer more value by creating more of the things we have been asking for all along, like more comfort, better heat dissipation systems, more full-length games instead of short demos that you pay full price for, positional/hand/finger tracking systems, better optics, a higher PPI screen, a larger sweet spot, and a far better Oculus Home experience with numerous customization features.
One of those situation is the open ecosystem of Google Play versus Oculus’ closed Home Store. As developers jump ship to get their games published on Daydream without any restrictions, or fear of rejection, Oculus will have to redefine its policies in terms of how it can entice great games without roadblocking all of the crappy ones people feel they have to have the right to publish freely like on Daydream. This means more crud will happen on Daydream, but also that means even the better titles will also go to Daydream because of its openness. And if Oculus doesn’t modify their strategy, their reign could very well be over. If they want to keep their closed system, they will still have to open things up quite a bit more than at present. And then there are at least 2 things need to happen to make this “more-open version” work out, in my opinion:
- Oculus has to finally begin explaining EXACTLY why they reject some applications or games so that the Devs can have hope of finding a way to comply with the reasoning, however flawed they feel it might be. If Devs can’t learn why their apps are rejected, why even bother to risk developing for Oculus? They can just leave and develop for Daydream where a yes is guaranteed! Problem solved, then the GearVR really is over.
- Oculus should reward companies that achieve a certain number of downloads of a game. So if a game is good, and is successful, afford it even more success. Charge more of a percentage for all the games sold in the store, especially even higher for under-performing games. That means if your game does poorly, you also get less profit from it, which incentivizes you to make a better game, not a shitty one. Then Oculus would set aside a large chunk as reward money to pay out to companies that create the killer app, over $1 million dollars per year. This pay-out approach means all developers will pay a bit more initially to get their games in the store so that best companies can be rewarded for doing something good for the platform. (Apps by Samsung are excluded from winning these bonuses). But a good example would be “Smash Hit” … a game that came out for free. It was so successful, earned so much praise, and is so beloved, that it deserves to win one of these prizes. So let’s say $250k for 1st prize, $100k for 2nd prize, $50k for 3rd prize, etc ….. to be held yearly by Oculus and Samsung as one of their Special Events. Maybe they pay out to at least the whole top 10 games/apps produced in that year, with monetary cash prizes to these top teams? In addition, the top 10 worst apps/games also receive bad name awards (negative awards for bad creations or junk). This is how Oculus can open up the Home Store a bit more in combination with item #1 above to offer winning companies a chance to prove their merits and earn top prizes from the cream skimmed off the poorer-performing apps that normally drag the Store down. So if your game sucks, you pay 25% of your game’s price to Oculus, but if your game starts to take off, you can pay less and less until finally you are paying the rate Oculus enjoys right now as the lowest rate possible. Oculus uses that money to reward the best game developers in a yearly ceremony, so even if you put your game up for free, you could still come away with $250K if the community votes your game up to that level! Awesome!
Daydream has literally just created a race where none has yet existed. GearVR was a monopoly onto itself, the only device in the mobile arena of any quality or depth. But with Daydream, people will not have more choices, they will ANY choice at all. Because Oculus has been living in the land of milk and honey, where no one had any choice but to either buy or not buy the device. And since they couldn’t keep up with the demand anyway, what does that even matter? If enough demand exists to keep you building as fast as all your factories can even go, then if the rest of humanity were to spit on your product and swear to never buy it, who would you even care?
Sometimes the slow pace of Oculus updates, the lack of positional tracking years later after it’s initial unveiling, the lack of full-length titles, the endless bugs in the Home Store, the lack of download options, all leads one to conclude that Oculus does not fair well going it alone as the sole shark in the tank. They just don’t seem self-motivated enough, with the “Facebook dynamically-streaming-video innovation” being just about the only new thing they’ve come up with since the GearVR was unveiled. The Home Store is full of issues, holes, and problems a mile long, but months often ago right on by without anything being done to repair said issues in a timely-enough manner. It just feels like Oculus is doing things however it wants, without any pressure to innovate or satisfy beyond what is necessary.
Daydream is the answer to their limited monopoly, to their laziness, to their lack of speed in repairing issues and offering solutions. Daydream is the force that repels, the resistance that pushes back, that forces them to take stock of their own strengths and weaknesses. Daydream will become GearVR’s mirror in the year to come, forcing Oculus to see where it falls short and then actually do something about it! Daydream is a wake up call to Samsung about what can be done in hardware right now, stuff that should have already been done, and not waited on as if the world would somehow NEVER catch up to what they had accomplished.
They had a lead, but now that lead is lost. And now they’ll have to work three times harder to catch up and regain that lead, but in that struggle, it is we who shall reap the rewards, my friends. The GearVR of tomorrow will be one heck of a machine, you can be assured of that. And we all have Daydream to thank for that. Heck, it might even be quite a great little machine, too, who knows? But I am not afraid of it, or of what it will do to GearVR. Not in the least. I am actually grateful to Daydream for being made, for the good I believe it will do for us GearVR lovers in the long run.
The VR war really is on, folks. And they say to the victors go the spoils. But when it comes to VR, the end user is the only real victor. The companies themselves have to live and operate in the real world, but the better VR becomes due to this war, the further from the real world we end users can get! Haha, the more they fight this war, the more WE actually win! That’s a first in the entire history of the agenda known as globalism! And it’s the most exciting news I can think of regarding VR at this point.
Take care, friends.