Virtually mainstream: TRP Surveys research on VR shows strong uptake


Virtually mainstream: TRP Surveys research on VR shows strong uptake

Nearly 20% of people intend to buy a Virtual Reality device in the next year, a study by TRP Surveys has shown. 15% of those surveyed already own a VR device in some form (from basic cardboard glasses to high-spec PC and console devices) and the high interest in buying means that within a year over a third of us are likely to own VR enabling equipment. Of those that have made the purchase, over 40% have used the equipment ‘a bit more’ or ‘much more’ than expected.

That’s not to say the technology has yet been perfected, 36% of VR owners found VR made them feel queasy – an effect that’s likely due to a slight mismatch between player movement and the speed of the screen updating.  The next biggest bugbears were the limited range of games (due to the newness of the technology and the expense involved in creating games) and poor video quality – both of these problems were experienced by 30% of VR owners.

Ironing out these glitches to an entirely slick experience will take time, but most who own a VR headset have been surprised and impressed by their devices: the biggest proportion – 39% – found VR a bit better than expected, and 16% found it far exceeded expectation. The most common words used to describe the experience of using VR are ‘fun’ ‘interesting’, ‘exciting’ and ‘amazing’.  And despite its comparable infancy, those that have purchased VR devices have found that its use already outstrips that of traditional gaming – 31% agree with the statement ‘I still play traditional games occasionally but most of my gaming is using VR’.  For a not-insubstantial 14%, VR has completely taken over.  Not every type of video game suits VR gaming but so far adventure, driving and horror /survival are proving to be popular genres.

For those that don’t yet own a VR device but intend to buy one, the key price point people are willing to pay is £100-£300. Sony PlayStation VR is the console device with the highest take-up (owned by 5% of those surveyed) but the latest PlayStation VR 4 is priced slightly outside of the price range of the majority, with the latest version retailing at approximately £350. Of the PC-based devices, the two main products on the market are also both upwards of the preferred price-point: the Oculus Rift (2% penetration) is also just beyond the common budget at just over £350 whereas the HTC Vive (1% penetration) costs around £600.  Expense is stated as being one of the biggest barriers to purchase, stopping 34% of would-be owners from purchasing.

However, other devices – particularly those that turn mobile phones into VR viewing devices – come in much cheaper, many at less than £100. The Google Cardboard – a pair of cardboard glasses that an Android phone slots into – retails at well under £10 and, as such, is the most popular of VR devices, owned by just over 5% of those surveyed. However, Samsung bridge the middle-ground with their Samsung Gear VR, a plastic-encased phone headset, much more akin in looks to a console device and available with Bluetooth motion controllers. Sold individually, the Samsung Gear VR retails at between £75-£120 – but Samsung have capitalised on their smartphone success and brought the device to a bigger market by offering the Gear VR as part of some phone contracts. In doing so, they have achieved recognition nearly equal to PlayStation’s dedicated console device (Gear VR had been heard of by 38% compared to PlayStation’s 40%) and, in terms of ownership, with 4% penetration, the Gear VR is only just behind the much cheaper Google Cardboard.

As phone-based devices rely solely on the phone’s computing power, these devices are often better suited to short VR ‘experiences’ and Augmented Reality (where virtual aspects are overlaid onto reality) rather than VR gaming. Over half of those intending to buy a VR device would be looking to acquire a console-based device; only 27% were expecting to buy phone-based headset (32% weren’t sure).  The hard-core gamer is still likely to prefer the greater technical sophistication of the more expensive console and PC based devices, and gaming is still the main use for the equipment and driver of sales. But the phone-based devices serve an important function in demonstrating VR’s uses to a bigger market.  And it’s becoming clear that those uses go beyond just gaming: recent news reports about VR being used to train surgeons has shown its real-world usage and, ‘education/training’, ‘trying new experiences’ and ‘seeing new places’ were all cited in the survey as key uses of VR. The latter two functions are more-than-adequately served by the cheaper devices, allowing smartphone users to virtually climb Everest, explore the deep sea, walk around the White House and more.

Widespread take-up of VR equipment has been a long time coming and of those surveyed, nearly 90% of VR owners had bought their device in the last year – many in the last six months – so the research by TRP Surveys is timely and their responses are a good early indication of satisfaction levels as the technology moves beyond niche usage. The penetration of VR as it stands is roughly comparable to that of smartwatches, so while it is still not the integral part of modern life that some once predicted, nor is it just a gadget for the games enthusiast.  70% of VR owners believe the devices are more than just an enjoyable diversion, but an important technology for the future – and all indications are that the next year will be crucial in establishing that to the mainstream market.

Fieldwork 10/11/2017-28/11/2017. A detailed report, including demographics and more, is available on request. Contact jyoung@trpresearch.com

TRP Surveys is a UK-wide media survey, run by media research agency TRP Research.  We run regular omnibus surveys on any media-related questions and provide quick turnaround of results, with insight and analysis included as standard and a guaranteed sample of 1,000 nationally-representative responses

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