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VR-tertainment: On the Edge of An Entertainment Revolution

Oct 13 2015

Are you ready for the virtual reality entertainment revolution? It’s coming.  

It is looking like virtual reality will have impacts far beyond gaming, and as advances are made towards mainstreaming the technology, it looks like we could be on the edge of a virtual entertainment revolution. Get ready for VR-tainment.

Of course, before VR can change the entertainment industry, it has to make its way into living rooms. But there are signs that we are getting closer: the new Oculus Samsung Gear could take VR from the headlines into actual living rooms. The headset is priced at $99, and works with any of the 2015 Samsung phones, which could make it affordable enough to “unlock virtual reality for the mainstream.” The Gear is also much lighter than previous headsets, and will be available in stores in time for Black Friday.

A new study has predicted that VR will reach 10.6 million consumers by 2016. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift might have received the bulk of attention, but 18 other VR-focused companies received a combined $590 million in investments during 2014. At the moment, gaming makes up 76% of available VR content—but that is quickly changing. We included VR in our list of trends that could leave TV in the dust for a reason. Wired predicts it has the potential to create an equivalent “excitement of those first silent movies,” and it seems that every week brings news of another development that signals a growing VR-tainment industry.

At the Sundance Film festival this year, Oculus, already famous for its VR video games, unveiled Story Studio, a new in-house branch dedicated to creating VR films and discovering the most effective storytelling methods. In July, Story premiered Henry, the heartwarming short VR film about a hedgehog who wants hugs—and shows the huge potential for VR entertainment. 

But it seems original content from Oculus is just the beginning. Last month, the VR innovator announced that 20th Century Fox would be creating full-length movies for the Oculus Video platform. To start, about a hundred movies from the Fox archive, including Birdman, Die Hard, and Cast Away, will be made available in the new platform. The President of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment commented, “We are just scratching the surface of how Hollywood and VR will revolutionize entertainment by exploring innovative ways to develop immersive experiences as a new storytelling medium.” Lionsgate has also said they will be releasing films for the platform. Facebook, Oculus’s owner, has also unveiled 360 degree VR videos that place viewers inside the film and television content and allow them to explore in any direction.

Films experienced through VR won’t only be immersive in a whole new way, they could also be experienced socially. Watching movies has long had a communal element to it, and to ensure the social elements of entertainment are not missing from virtual, Oculus has created the Oculus Cinema application, which PSFK reports will “[recreate] a movie theater where virtual avatars will occupy the seats.” Oculus describes the app as “a virtual movie theater, where you can playback your favorite 2D and 3D movies in a variety of theater environments.” Though information about the app is not plentiful, it’s being suggested that social elements will allow users to co-view content and communicate as they watch.

Film studios are not the only segment of the industry getting involved in VR-tainment. Netflix and Hulu will also make their full library of content available to be viewed in virtual reality. The content will not be 360-degree, but instead will be viewed as 2D video inside a 3D environment. Confused? Imagine binging episides of Seinfeld while virtually sitting in Seinfeld’s iconic apartment.

Though VR headsets may not be in every consumers’ hands just yet, marketers and brands should get prepared for the VR-tainment revolution, which could change the way they reach consumers. 

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