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Gaming Is Only The Beginning For the Vive, Says HTC

HTC’s Vive had a major presence on the show floor of this year’s PAX Australia convention in Melbourne. Whether we’re talking about indie developed VR experiences like Kept or VR backpacks being demonstrated at the HP and MSI booths or even the dedicated VR Freeplay space open to the public over the duration of the event – the Vive was the VR platform of choice.

We were among a small group of tech journalists who had the chance to speak with Vive Vice President Ramond Pao and Jimmy Feng, Vive’s Chief of Staff about the in-roads the company has made when it comes to taking virtual reality commercially-viable.

While the big announcement of the conference was that HTC Vive will be coming to Australian retailers as soon as this month – both for purchase and demonstrations within fifty JB Hi-Fi stores and sixty Harvey Norman outlets.

“We do see a very enthusiastic consumer base in Australia and that’s why we want to accelerate the adoption,” Feng said.

According to Pao, “VR is the technology thats going to change the world.”

He says it’s a “different dimension of display for consumers” and emphasizes the versatility of the Vive when it comes to both room-scale and seated VR experiences. He says that versatility allows the Vive to overcome the potential barrier of living space facing other VR platforms.

He’s managed the rollout of HTC’s Viveport content portal in across the APAC region, beginning in China, then later Japan and Southeast Asia.

Raymond says the Viveport was created to try and seize on this potential. The HTC-run content portal was first created for Chinese audiences but launched globally in September.

He says that while Viveport is important, they still encourage Vive users to utilize Valve’s platform.

For gamers, “Steam is still the best platform,” he admits.

“The most hardcore talent is in the SteamVR platform.”

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However, when it VR use beyond private gaming, HTC have some pretty big ambitions for the Viveport.

Raymond says that HTC see “Lots of opportunity beyond gaming,” citing education, content creation (like Tiltbrush) and Alibbaba’s recently announced VR shopping experience as developments worth watching.

“We do believe shopping is another big area for VR in the future”, he says.

“We have many different experiences other than the [core] Vive” Feng says.

He says they see the Vive’s Home social space as an experience with high monteization potential through customization similar in nature to that of Sony’s now-defunct Playstation Home.

They’ve found that the usage Rate on 360 video is quite high and that led them to release their VR-augmented reading experience VivePaper.

They say it’s a “new way to create a magazine” – one that blends AR and VR.

It allows users to peruse a magazine of nature photography, scan a QR code, then visit the locations featured using the Vive.

These experiences, along with gaming ones, are something that HTC are very directly looking to help promote the development of through their accelerator program.

Several developers showcasing their VR content on the PAX showfloor told us that HTC representatives had dropped by and encouraged them to apply for the accelerator program.

The program, currently taking its second batch of applicants, provides training, marketing resources and VC funding to Vive developers.

Another area they’re seeing as one with big potential is public gaming spaces like arcades.

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“There are more and more people using Vive for their arcade business,” he says.

Raymond says that HTC found arcade owners buying Vives for public use and saw it as an opportunity. This eventually led to the company’s new Viveport Arcade. He says they worked with developers to establish new versions of VR experiences that better suit an arcade environment.

This included a new revenue sharing system, a “separate monetization channel to developers”

“In an arcade, people don’t really need to see an introduction or a story,” as a consequence, content needs to be modified (or reused where possible).

They believe the potential value of a Vive-enabled arcade market here is $100 million.

“We’re going to help build that market,” he says.

The HTC Vive will come to Australian retailers Harvey Norman & JB Hi-Fi, on November 21st for an RRP of $1399.

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