HTC talks VR adoption, Vive’s expanding ecosystem and Viveport’s success

Katharine Byrne
HTC talks VR adoption, Vive’s expanding ecosystem and Viveport’s success
Graham Breen, program manager EMEA virtual reality at HTC

A lot has changed at HTC since we last spoke to the company in May. Not only has it announced a brand new standalone VR headset for Google’s Daydream platform aimed at the Chinese market, but it’s also struck a $1.1bn (£821.7m) smartphone deal with the very same search giant, which will see Google receive a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC IP plus a number of
its employees. 

If all that wasn’t enough, it’s also permanently knocked £160 off its Vive headset, bringing its new price down to £599. That’s still £100 more than Oculus’ new price for its Rift and Touch bundle, but for Graham Breen, program manager EMEA virtual reality at HTC, it’s the quality of the Vive’s original content that remains its greatest strength: 

“[August] was the right time to reduce the price for Vive because we’re entering a key purchasing season with some of the biggest and best VR titles on the horizon,” he tells MCV. 

“We have new partners and content coming online daily and we believe that lowering the price for Vive will boost VR adoption across the globe and bring in more consumers, content creators and accessory partners.

“The focus from Vive has always been around bringing the highest quality and most engaging content through VR. Over the past year, we’ve seen incredible multiplayer games launching – a great example being Star Trek Bridge Crew from Ubisoft this summer. This has definitely helped to take gameplay to another level and brought in a wider audience of games. Gaming styles are a very personal thing, but the great news is that with Fallout 4 and all of the other new launches this year, there really is something for everyone on Vive.”

Indeed, with more than 1,600 Vive titles now available across Steam and its own Viveport platform, not to mention over 30 new apps launching every day, Vive’s marketplace has grown “at a tremendous pace,” according to Breen, adding that “the rapid growth of content available is a win for VR overall.”

That said, he’s still keenly aware of the discoverability challenges that affect both customers and content creators during these periods of growth, which is why the firm launched its own Viveport subscription service earlier this year. For £6.99 a month, users can get unlimited access to a special premium tier of VR apps and experiences that rotate every month, allowing them to try a huge range of content before going on to buy them.

“In launching Viveport, we responded to demand from developers who were looking to reach people with their content,” Breen explains. “Since launching, we’ve seen over 200 developers bringing their content to Viveport.

“We’ve also launched our Viveport subscription service, allowing people access to an ever-growing library of curated content for a monthly fee. Both services have seen successful launches and strong engagement from Vive users.”

"Lowering the price for Vive will boost VR adoption across the globe and bring in more consumers, content creators and accessory partners."

Graham Breen, HTC

Europe, in particular, has been a strong hotbed of talent for Vive.

 “We don’t go into regional breakdowns in terms of sales, but what has been particularly good to see from Europe is the mix of people using Vive – from gamers wanting a great experience through to developers who have built great content and also businesses using Vive. Some of the most popular games developed for Vive have been from European developers – Space Pirate Trainer, for example.”

It’s not just the games industry that’s benefitting from Vive’s thriving ecosystem, however, as Breen explains: “VR is changing every industry imaginable, from gaming and entertainment, to art, design, engineering and education. Among businesses working with Vive, one area we’ve seen a really strong uptake in is the automotive sector with companies such as Audi using Vive in its showrooms and Jaguar Land Rover using Vive for the most recent launch events.”

ARCADE FIRE

Another key focus for Vive is the growth of location-based VR through its Viveport Arcade portal. With increasing numbers of VR arcades cropping up around the world, these out-of-home experiences are quickly becoming the first point of contact for prospective headset owners, making them great opportunities to showcase the very best the platform has to offer. 

“The range of content we’re seeing at arcades is growing all the time,” Breen says. “We’re seeing some arcades working with consumer titles and that, in turn, is increasing awareness for many of these developers. We’re also seeing some arcades creating bespoke experiences often with specific installations such as Bandai Namco’s VR Zone in Tokyo. 

“We’ve seen development teams of all sizes jump into VR as a new frontier of creativity, experimentation and gameplay and there is definitely space for both methods allowing larger players and smaller independent arcades to thrive. With Viveport Arcade we’re offering support for arcades who want access to a range of content without having to create it themselves. We fully intend to keep Vive open to developers and to be the best VR platform to develop for. One of the key driving forces for Viveport is our ability to provide new revenue streams to developers, which is a big part of why we launched a VR subscription service. Whether it is direct game sales, revenue from [Viveport] Arcade, subscription models or getting your content on more devices, we will be there.”

All types of games have potential to be big arcade hits, too, says Breen: “The thing about Vive, is that once you put the headset on, it doesn’t really matter where you are in the real world,” he says. “The key is really just choice. Content is key, no matter where it is experienced. We will continue to invest heavily in the Vive ecosystem and introduce products that make VR creation easier and faster and lower entry-costs to VR development. Vive Trackers alone will serve as a paradigm for SteamVR development.”

New hardware like its object-scanning Trackers will be vital if Vive’s to keep up the speed of today’s current development scene. 

“What’s been really exciting to see is how the content has evolved,” says Breen. “Games and experiences have been constantly improving. This only shows signs of continuing further with the upcoming launch of triple-A games such as Fallout 4 VR, L.A. Noire and Doom VFR. 

“Beyond games we’re seeing a growth in other ways of using VR, with some companies such as UPS using Vive to train drivers. We expect this to continue evolving and for VR to touch people in more ways, including many that we haven’t even thought about yet.”

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