There’s no doubt that one of the biggest buzzwords this year is virtual reality (VR). One recent economic forecast suggested that revenues generated by the VR industry would reach $75 billion globally by 2021. That figure seems somewhat ambitious when you consider that VR has some way to go towards becoming a mainstream gaming technology. Software developers are going to have to make a big decision as to whether the technology will be tailored solely for millennials (also known as Generation Z), who were born between 1998 and 2008.
There is a lot at stake here. Older video gamers could be marginalized in the years to come as VR gaming positions itself towards the single biggest group of consumers on the planet. Generation Z is expected to represent two-fifths of consumer spending in the United States within the next few years. VR has already woven its way into the consciousness of millennial gamers, who are enchanted by the ability to feel and experience alternative environments without other technological distractions to feed their minimal attention spans.
Even when it comes to games where face-to-face social interaction is key, VR is on the verge of making a breakthrough. At last year’s PokerStars Championship in the Bahamas, the brand operated its own VR stations away from the table felt to show traditional poker players what life could be like playing in a virtual world.
But those born before Generation Z who are not part of the digital-native demographic, are still unlikely to get on board. For the older generation, home-based gaming is about engaging with friends or loved ones rather than the solitary confinement of donning a VR headset and jetting off to a virtual world.
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It’s therefore unsurprising why VR gaming is focused squarely on millennials that are more interested in experiences than possessions. In order to make VR gaming accessible to the younger generation, the tech giants are going to have to lower their prices. Almost two-fifths (38%) of recently surveyed millennials admitted that the cost of VR hardware was a deterrent from getting involved in VR gaming.
Furthermore, Generation Z has become increasingly made up of trendy hipsters who have made various comments on the ‘awkward’ and ‘nerdy’ VR headset gear available in the market today. Millennials want to look and feel good when indulging in new experiences, so consumer VR headsets will need to evolve towards more comfortable, stylish designs to secure a mainstream millennial audience.
The burgeoning VR industry should not look to run before it can walk, though. Despite these bold economic forecasts, worldwide growth for VR gaming was somewhat static last year, the year in which VR was supposed to take off in a big way. Aside from gaming, VR is already becoming a force for good in education, with practical learning experiences for languages proving to be a big hit with the next generation of digital natives.
However, the VR gaming sector needs to do more to prove it is committed to making VR a more exciting and immersive space for millennials. A commitment to more VR-exclusive gaming titles is necessary to make Generation Z believe in the magic of VR. Just like a favorite television show or book, VR gaming developers need to craft games and environments that millennials can’t stop thinking about. We have yet to experience a game that truly underlines the global potential of VR gaming, but this could yet be the year that it all kicks off.