At the beginning of 2015, the talk surrounding virtual reality was focused on how VR was poised to one day go mainstream. Now, as we rapidly approach the year’s end, it looks like VR already has gone mainstream. And the VR pioneers with first-to-market technologies, solutions, and content offerings are reaping the benefits of having picked up the slack for VR laggards and holdouts who simply didn’t believe that enough consumers are ready to embrace virtual reality.
On Monday, CNBC confirmed that Samsung’s $99 Gear VR headset blazed its way to sold-out status at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com barely 48 hours after launch. It’s a stunning success, but one that the digital content crew at The New York Times has already experienced first-hand. Their publication’s VR app, we’re told, was downloaded “more times in its first four days than any Times app before,” says Kate Kaye of AdAge.
Okay, so downloads are one thing. What about engagement? As it turns out, Kaye explains, viewers “spent an impressive average of nearly 15 minutes using it.”
Initially panned by some critics and editorial rivals, the Times is now having the last laugh. Their project, Kaye notes, was “the biggest ever” for Cardboard, Google’s sophisticatedly simple VR viewer.
Perhaps nowhere is the groundswell of interest in VR more apparent and exciting than in the gaming market. According to an October 2015 report from Grand View Research, Inc., the global virtual reality in gaming market size is expected to blow past $9 billion by 2022. These projections are sparking a rush to market for app developers and gaming companies looking to capitalize on this nascent gaming genre’s potential.
With a majority of games downloaded today being free-to-play, the world’s foremost mobile ad players have already begun pioneering new in-app advertising and monetization solutions for VR games.
The most talked-about innovator in this arena today is VirtualSky, a new platform created by Airpush, a global mobile ad platform that presciently began working on its virtual reality ad network long before VR ad solutions were on any mobile ad company’s priority list.
Earlier this month during ad:tech New York, attendees were treated to demos of VirtualSky’s “Experience Ads,” which are placed at natural breaks in gaming content (between levels, for example) and transport viewers “into the world of the ad with 360 degrees of video and sound.”
With strong advertiser interest already apparent, VirtualSKY has begun accepting early advertiser campaign requests on virtualsky.com.
“Virtual Reality has received the endorsement and investment of the largest tech companies in the world today,” says Cameron V. Peebles, Head of Global Marketing for VirtualSKY. “From Google to Sony to Facebook, options for VR content development have exploded while any real monetization or advertising capabilities have yet to emerge. VirtualSKY is the first platform to offer both of these.”
These late-2015 successes have no doubt lit a fire under long-time VR doubters who have finally witnessed the mainstream virtual reality boom they never anticipated (or at least not this soon). But their challenge, as 2016 looms large, now includes playing catch-up to the pioneers who were among the first to plant their flags in this space and are currently reveling in the riches born of seizing the VR industry’s earliest opportunities.