Last month, the BBC announced that it would be showing live eSports on BBC Three. The UK is not known for having a strong presence in the eSports world, but will this be a turning point, inspiring a new generation of competitive gamers? Continue reading
Tag Archives: gaming
For those financial analysts who took the time to comb through Apple’s fiscal fourth quarter results last year, it was noted that despite overall declines, Apple Services – the division which includes Apple Music, Apple Pay, and the App Store – posted very healthy growth of 24% up to $6.3 billion. If this growth continues the Services division is on track to become a Fortune 100 company in its own right later this year. A decent proportion of that revenue will come from mobile games. It’s fair to say that mobile gaming has a far wider market reach than console or PC, partly due to cost and accessibility; the success of apps like Angry Birds and Pokémon GO are a testament to its appeal. Indeed, mobile gaming is generally seen as socially more acceptable than PC or console gaming, which still has a reputation (at least in many European countries) as being the preserve of the youth and hobbyists where a much larger financial commitment is required.
Despite the importance of gaming to the mobile platform, and increasingly to the stagnating PC market, Apple has resisted overtly marketing towards gamers, instead leaving that up to individual app studios. This is understandable for a brand which positions itself as luxury/lifestyle, the technical equivalent to a designer fashion label, allowing for Apple products to perpetually command high ASPs. Just as the iPhone/iPad is now the gaming platform of choice for many consumers, Macs can be considered a PC gaming alternative. According to the latest survey from Valve’s Steam cloud gaming platform – the most important global online shop for PC games – Mac OSX now makes up 3% of all users, with 50% of those users being Macbook Pro owners. Back in 2015 Valve stated that Steam had over 125 million players, meaning that even two years ago there were 3.75m Mac OS gamers on their platform alone. Looking further into Steam’s data, the top selling games for Mac OSX include all of the world’s biggest eSports titles such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
A common question repeatedly asked by channel and vendor partners is why CONTEXT includes Macs as part of the PC gaming market. The simple answer is that when the PC market is segmented according to what is gaming capable based upon system specs, Macs are part of the gaming market. At the low-end of the market, Apple has a healthy share thanks to the high number of iMacs utilising the AMD Radeon R9 M390 and similar GPUs. This configuration will not allow for full GFX settings on many AAA game titles, however it will still run popular games with acceptable framerates. Thanks to Apple’s announcement in early June that high-end VR-ready GPUs would soon be available either as a tethered add-on or as a standard system spec, Macs will be better equipped to compete in the enthusiast-end of the PC gaming market. In the case of the Thunderbolt 3 external GPU, this allows for a VR-ready upgrade at $599. This might seem steep given that AMD’s Radeon RX 580 retails for $300, however $599 is still cheaper than buying a new VR-ready notebook, and the dev kit also comes with a $100 discount on the HTC Vive.
In the fashion world, high-end products are sometimes adopted by a non-target market – the story of Burberry’s clothing in the UK is a good example – and PCs have a history of being co-opted for purposes beyond the vendor intention. In the end, consumers will always have the final say on how they want to use a technology; as the Apple Services financials show, a vendor may wish to keep their success a public secret.
In three decades of video gaming there have been some very odd on-screen instructions. The Grand Theft Auto series introduced a controversial healing mechanic, and in PS3’s 2010 title Heavy Rain players were encouraged to “press x to Jason [sic]”, however being instructed to pedal in order to start your unicorn must now be a close contender. It’s also fair to say that very few eSports or sit-down video games will draw much more than nervous perspiration, or perhaps the dreaded Nintendo Thumb some of us used to suffer when attempting to finish seemingly impossible titles like Battletoads (which if played with two players was actually impossible). The Nintendo Wii was the first mass-market gaming platform to show the potential for video games to help users truly exercise, and the motion controllers and uses beyond sedentary gaming were a major selling-point over seemingly superior competing products. The majority of users eventually grew to see the Wii Fit as a novelty workout video with interaction, and slowly consoles were retired in garages, ignored and eventually abandoned like so many gym memberships. Few of those Wii Fit owners have looked back since.
As the VR industry has grown over the last two years a new form of exercise has emerged – Vsports. In this instance, the user is immersed in a 360 degree 3D world, transforming a session on an exercise machine into a totally different experience. Often complaints of reluctant joggers is that running through the streets of Balham is hardly exciting, and thudding on a treadmill whilst watching Simon Cowell’s latest autotuned starlet in the gym is drastically worse. What about running along the banks of the River Tiber whilst chasing rogue legionnaires, or indeed, flying a pedal-powered unicorn? The latter has been made possible by VirZOOM, a company so sure of its product that they are targeting their marketing directly at lapsed gym bunnies. My own aversion to jogging is the lack of competition and the abstract nature of lonely cardio exercise, however a gameplay element and opponents, both virtual and real, will push me the extra mile. Interestingly, in a 2016 CONTEXT survey of EU consumers, sport was the gaming category which excited them the most for VR, with 1 in 5 respondents expressing an interest; this could now mean sport in a very physically-active sense.
For those of us in the ICT industry who have been lucky enough to try VSports at events such as CES, general consensus is that this could be a big category for VR, both at home and in larger installations. As an analyst, I am frequently asked where the opportunities for VR lie for the channel, and VSports offer both a B2B and consumer market. Health technology is persistently strong in terms of sales, and the industry is accustomed to disruptive technology and wearables. Moreover, gyms have long been a customer of AV installers and resellers: almost all gyms contain dozens of TVs and LFDs. The sanitary aspect of VR headsets has not been missed by start-ups, with companies such as VR Cover popping up to sell washable VR peripherals.
Perhaps the most interesting example of the convergence of games, VR, and VSports is the phenomenon of accidental exercise. My own serendipitous encounter with VSport was whilst playing Knockout League on the Oculus Rift/Touch recently. After over an hour of shadow boxing I removed my headset to discover the sort of sweat I’d expect after a 5km run. I’m not the only industry professional to accidentally work out during a normal gaming session: Job Stauffer, Telltale’s head of creative communications recently announced that he’d lost over 50lb playing a VR game, in this case Sandboxing. For those of you in the channel who have routes to the healthcare verticals and are also lucky enough to be distributors or resellers of one of the high-end VR HMDs, my advice is to start some serious conversations about the new categories of VR Fitness Devices and Accessories.
En el CES de este año celebrado en Las Vegas, el CEO de Nvidia, Jen-Hsun Huang, anunció en su discurso de apertura a la prensa que están trabajando con Audi en un coche autónomo que saldrá a la venta en el 2020. También informó que el catalizador de todas sus innovaciones tecnológicas de la GPU había sido el gaming. De hecho el gaming se ha identificado como la actividad más pesada que el procesador de un PC de consumo tiene que llevar a cabo. Jen-Hsun declaró que “… todos los juegos son realidad virtual”, en la mayoría de los juegos se tiene que crear un mundo virtual en el que un jugador viva. Con algunas notables excepciones, CES 2017 fue el año del coche autónomo!
En cuanto a la Realidad Virtual, mi experiencia después de haber asistido al CES de este año hace que me pregunte:”¿qué será lo siguiente?” El año pasado fui testigo del lanzamiento de tres gafas de Realidad Virtual de alta gama para el consumidor (Rift, Vive, PSVR) y la comercialización agresiva de las Gear VR de Samsung, pero en cambio CES 2017 no ofreció muchas noticias sobre la Realidad Virtual, a excepción de nuevos fabricantes de HMDs y de sus complementos. En cuanto a los productos de hardware existentes, no hemos visto una adopción masiva de la Realidad Virtual durante el 2016 y esto no ha sido una sorpresa para CONTEXT.
El primer factor a tener en cuenta es el coste adicional de la Realidad Virtual. Se necesita un PC potente y costoso, o una PlayStation 4. Además, la experiencia de la Realidad Virtual en dispositivos móviles sigue siendo muy inferior en términos de procesamiento 3D, en comparación con los cascos de Realidad virtual que se conectan a un PC o a una consola. La Realidad Virtual Móvil debería ser el hogar natural de esta tecnología, dada la proliferación de teléfonos inteligentes en comparación con los PC gaming, pero aún no existe la gran aplicación que pueda impulsar las ventas; la Realidad Virtual todavía está esperando a su Pokémon Go !. Hasta que las GPUs móviles estén a la altura de las GPUs de los PCs de alta gama, los desarrolladores de aplicaciones deben enfocarse en los juegos ingeniosos y adictivos. Se puede hacer un paralelismo con los primeros días de Atari: los desarrolladores de aplicaciones de Realidad Virtual son esenciales para crear un género de entretenimiento desde cero.
Varias cosas deben suceder en 2017 para mejorar las ventas de los dispositivos de Realidad Virtual, además de reducirse los costes iniciales de adopción. En este momento, las tiendas de aplicaciones de estos dispositivos, e incluso la plataforma Steam PC, se inundan de contenido de Realidad Virtual barato y a menudo de mala calidad. Para la mayoría de los dispositivos, a excepción de las Rift, el universo de desarrolladores de Realidad Virtual de PCs está dominado por estudios independientes de calidad variable, y posiblemente esto, combinado con un mercado de software confuso y masificado, recuerde a las condiciones que causaron el colapso de la industria de videojuegos en 1983. Facebook y Oculus se destacan por su inversión en los estudios Oculus y el apoyo a los títulos AAA. Juegos como Chronos y The Unspoken nos dan una idea de lo bueno que puede ser el contenido de Realidad Virtual, y Facebook merece elogios por estar invirtiendo en software para el que probablemente no verá ganancias a corto plazo. En 2017 necesitamos más fabricantes que inviertan en contenido AAA de Realidad Virtual; después de todo, el mercado de juegos de PCs de alta gama está ayudando a revitalizar la industria madura del PC, y además, las Vive y las Rift dependen de estos PCs y de su contenido. El mensaje que la industria de Realidad Virtual necesita para 2017 es: inversión, contenido y educación del consumidor.
On November 29th, CONTEXT hosted a special VR breakfast in cooperation with Exertis France, AMD, MSI, Oculus, and Ubisoft in the Musée de l’Armée in les Invalides in Paris. Retailers, distributors and vendors gathered for the morning to hear the results of the latest CONTEXT European VR survey.
The VR survey was designed by members of the CONTEXT Virtual Reality Research group which includes companies such as Exertis, AMD, Oculus, John Lewis, Dell, CONTEXT, Retail Week and the University of Reading. The research highlighted the expectations of European consumers towards VR and the potential barriers to purchase of VR products. It also showed in which channel the consumer were expecting to find VR products and how much they were ready to spend. The survey gave to the various industry players a clear understanding of what concerns they should address and what they should communicate in order to allow the technology to gain greater penetration of the market. A representative of FNAC, Laura Gaztambide, eCommerce Coordinator of Video Gaming, shared FNAC’s own experience on VR products and future plans to develop this market further.
Prior to hearing the results of the VR research, attendees watched a briefing on the European gaming market presented by Jonathan Wagstaff, UK & Ireland country manager at CONTEXT, and a detailed presentation on Ancient Rome made by university professor Matthew Nicholls who has made a full virtual reconstruction of the Eternal City, the outcome of 8 years of work. This helped the attendees to assess the educational potential and usage that VR is opening up.
Guests also had a chance to try Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight VR game flying over a virtual Paris, and were welcomed by a kind note of support for the VR industry from President Francois Hollande who was proceeding to an Army review in the Invalides on the same morning.
Since the launch of the major consumer head-mounted displays earlier this year, very little research has been conducted into what the general public and gamers think about VR and what sort of intentions to purchase they might have. We’ve all read time and time again that VR is going to forever change entertainment, and make Oculus Rift’s Palmer Luckey truly live up to his name as the world’s most fortunate man. But are we getting ahead of ourselves?
In an attempt to shine some light on what consumers are actually thinking, we at CONTEXT teamed up with Oculus, AMD, Dell, and others to form a VR Research Group, commissioning surveys to take the pulse of Joe Public, as well as dedicated gamers.
The first bit of good news is that at least three in four consumers in the UK have heard of VR. Those surveyed were most familiar with Google Cardboard, with half claiming to have experienced it already. Basic form-factors such as the Cardboard appeal most to consumers, with 43% stating the untethered headset paired with a smartphone would be the format they would be most likely to use.
Those in the UK certainly do not see VR as a gimmick, with over half of the British public (56%) agreeing that VR has serious applications in fields such as medicine, science, and education. Awareness aside, there is still a lot more education which needs to happen to boost adoption, with 78% agreeing that they do not understand enough about VR products.
I want a go!
Seeing the technology in action is the most important factor to consumers, even overtaking price at 68%: of those sampled, 79% consider a demo opportunity an important motivator in deciding where to buy. This is where VR could potentially play into the hands of high-street retailers. Interestingly, Amazon did not come on top of target shopping destinations. A third of consumers chose a large specialist technology retailer as their preferred VR shopping location, compared to Amazon’s 18%.
Consumers are excited by the potential of VR, but convincing them to invest in the technology is still a considerable challenge. When asked how much they would be willing to spend on their first VR headset, consumers showed hesitancy in parting with substantial sums. 37% would prefer (unsurprisingly) to pay nothing for the headset, whilst 21% would only be willing to pay under £100. Moreover, the research shows that 8% of the general public and 26% of gamers are willing spend the £500 necessary to buy a high-quality VR headset.
I believe I can fly!
In terms of applications, consumers in the UK and around Europe are most excited about watching sport, film and TV in VR. Half of those surveyed in the UK (51%) would relish the opportunity to experience something they would never do in real life, such as sky diving. As you might expect, for VR game genres sports came top for the general public, as well as dedicated gamers in the UK.
But what did come as a surprise was the popularity of space and flight simulations. Taking a European average, flying and space simulators was the genre of VR game that most excited gamers. Elite Dangerous supports head-mounted displays on PC, and on mobile platforms games like Vanguard are showcasing the potential for these kinds of games for mobile VR.
The emerging VR market needs to be tracked very carefully and public perception will no doubt evolve fast. Pokémon GO’s rocketing success throws an augmented reality (AR) spanner in the works, and head-mounted displays are now being adapted to respond to this new market. Many in the industry are looking ahead to the launch of Sony’s PS VR as the real test for mass-market VR adoption, and we at CONTEXT will be watching the 2016 Christmas market very closely.
We recently covered some of the factors holding Virtual Reality back, citing worries that it is another gimmick like 3DTV, as well as the current lack of high-quality content. As such there are those sitting on the sidelines taking a wait and see approach, but a select few have been brave enough to experiment with the new medium. And it appears that first-mover advantage may once again prove invaluable.
Sport has always traditionally been a place where the latest technologies are tested – HD, 4K and now VR. UEFA has been testing filming in VR during the Champions’ League semi-finals and the final, and at this summer’s European Championships they will be using dozens of Nokia OZO cameras to film 360° footage as testing continues. Their hope is that fans will one day be able to watch an entire game from inside the stadium, completely immersed in VR.
The PGA Tour is also letting golf fans get in on the action, with VR videos of Wentworth showcasing a tour of the clubhouse, players’ lounge, practice range, and even footage of Tommy Fleetwood playing the opening hole. It seems that no sport can resist VR’s allure, as organisers vie for fan attention.
VR seems to have found a natural home with sport. Fans are devoted, and will pay for the latest experience to bring them closer to the action. Organisers meanwhile have the financial clout to test out what works and what doesn’t. VR certainly doesn’t come cheap, with a single Nokia OZO camera costing £40,000. And that’s before you think about the live streaming element, with all its associated infrastructure costs. Closer to home, hobbyist cameras are at a much more attractive price point. The Ricoh Theta retails at around £299, which means everything from a family dinner to a school sports day can be captured easily.
But it’s not just entertainment that is set to benefit from VR. Medical professionals are investigating how VR can help treat various conditions. One company, Brighter SE, has rigged a bicycle to a domed VR screen that displays the local neighbourhood of an Alzheimer patient. Using this technology, called the jDome, the patient can ride around near their childhood streets, stimulating memories and aiding their treatment.
According to Professor Andrew Glennrester, who is exploring the impact of VR on visual neuroscience at the University of Reading, the potential of virtual reality is limitless. “Using immersive VR, we can change the visual world as an observer moves, something which is invaluable to scientific research into human perception. VR makes it possible to double or quadruple the size of a scene, or move one object towards the observer while shrinking it so that it stays the same size in the image. Finding out what changes are imperceptible to the observer gives us crucial information about what the brain chooses to represent when structuring the scene. This information leads to a better understanding of how the brain represents the 3D world as we move around.”
The business and training applications of VR merit a mention too. Ford has used it to verify 135,000 design details to date on 193 vehicle prototypes. Not only has it proved more efficient, but by conducting all those tests virtually, Ford has radically reduced the environmental costs of physical prototyping. Attensi, meanwhile, has developed VR experiences that mimic retailers’ shops. Employees are then trained on customer service techniques in the virtual world, helping them better understand company best practice.
Businesses are striking out and finding real-world applications for VR beyond gaming and entertainment, and it is already paying dividends. Now that the first generation of consumer headsets make VR very much affordable to enterprises of all sizes, can your business afford not to invest?
We’re hosting the inaugural meeting of the CONTEXT Virtual Reality Research Group on July 5th at the British Museum. If you’d like to attend, please email Charlotte at: email@example.com.
At the event you will hear from academics, VR manufacturers and leading retailers – including Brighter SE and Attensi – as they discuss this new technology, its applications and its potential. You will also be able to try out most of the technology mentioned in this post. More information on the event here!