As we enter 2020, virtual reality is still struggling to win over consumers. It is now widely expected that VR will mostly be used by businesses. It is the classic problem of adoption: as long as consumers do not buy VR headsets, developers will not produce content that consumers want. Simply put: The platform needs a “killer app”, an application that entices consumers to pay for the platform. The difference between a VR killer app and the historical killer apps of other technologies (e.g. electricity and the lamp, computers and the spreadsheet) is that at least one use of VR is already very clear: playing videogames. For this reason, it is interesting that next year will see the first full-size VR-exclusive videogame based on one of the most popular IPs with Half-Life: Alyx. Could this become VR’s killer app?
What does this mean?
What makes Half-Life: Alyx interesting is that a highly talented studio (Valve) is showing the level of commitment from which others have shied away: Half-Life is one of the most popular videogame IPs of all time and Valve has built the engine for Alyx specifically for VR. Moreover, with the announcement of Alyx, it seems that we have entered the next phase of consumer VR innovation, in which competition to produce content is heating up. A few days after Valve announced Alyx, Facebook (Oculus Rift) revealed its acquisition of Beat Studios, creator of the popular game Beat Saber.
Contrary to popular belief, a killer app will not necessarily boost sales for VR headsets among a wide audience. A killer app will first trigger the interest of a much larger group of (hardcore) videogame consumers. Consequently, developers and producers will want to invest much more in producing content for VR. In turn, that will boost the adoption rates of VR among a wide audience in the longer run. Indeed, Half-Life: Alyx could become the killer app that sets this process of VR adoption in motion.