The Netflix-Like VR Subscription HTC Rolled Out at CES Could Be a Watershed
It solves what is arguably the tech's biggest sticking point.
At CES 2019, HTC continued its play to become the Netflix of virtual reality content. On Monday, the Taiwan-based company announced its Viveport Infinity VR subscription service which offers users unlimited games, 360-degree video, and virtual tools for an unannounced monthly fee. This is a major upgrade from its current platform, which costs roughly $9 per month for a year’s subscription and only lets users pick up to five titles out a roster of up to 60.
Viveport Infinity will likely be notably pricer, but with more than 500 virtual products starting April 5, it will also grow your library by about 100-fold. The VR library is also cross-platform, meaning users don’t need to own an HTC headset to become subscribers. Viveport Infinity will be usable on multiple PC VR headsets, including Oculus and Wave. It is, in short, exactly what this emerging tech — which has been available for years but is still rarely used — needs: Though unspeakably cool, the high cost of headsets and lack of content has caused it to stagnate, a hurdle that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called the “chicken and egg” problem. Users don’t adopt VR because there’s too little bang for your buck, which makes the games suckier because there aren’t enough people to sell them to.
Oculus, the Facebook-owned VR company, has also tried to tackle this lack of content with the announcement of the Oculus Quest, a standalone virtual reality headset. The VR console will cost $399, and offer a list of 50 games only available for download on the Quest. That’s an improvement, but still a step down from Viveport Infinity’s wider platform compatibility, which seems more likely to ensure that VR developers of all kinds have access to as many early adopters as possible. In theory, HTC’s product seems perfect for incentivizing much more content creation aimed at a much wider audience.
“We’re seeing a lot of usages when it comes to gaming, but we also want to show that VR can be great for educations, healthcare, creativity, sports, and music,” said Michael Almeraris HTC’s VP of content and partnerships in a promotional video. “This model allows users to try things that they might not have wanted to pay for.”
Now all that’s left to see is the price tag. A majority of VR gaming hardware costs hundreds of dollars, even thousands. On top of that, a lot of these systems require a beefy PC to run games and content smoothly, which can set back users thousands.
Whether they can start a consumer rush will still depend at least in part on the Viveport Infinity’s attendant costs. And of course, running a huge, comprehensive library of VR could very well introduce a Moviepass-type sustainability issue. But a library of that size alone solves one of VR’s biggest problems. Whether or not it’s HTC, someone’s gonna cash in.