We ask our industry panel – the brightest and sharpest VR professionals from around the world – one question about the XR industry, business, technology or trending stories every month.
Question: After years of waiting, Spielberg’s Ready Player One hits the movie theatres at the end of this month. Will it be a cultural watershed moment that opens the floodgates to popular adoption of VR with a tidal wave of new users? Or is it just going to be a fun flick for audiences to find on Netflix in a few months?
Simon Benson, VR and Immersive Technology Consultant at Realised Realities
“It’s likely to shine an enormous spotlight onto the fledgling VR market and will no doubt yield a mixed bag of responses. Marketers will try to convince us that their products are delivering OASIS. Critics will compare VR products to the movie and remind us that VR is not yet up to the standard that the movie promotes. But most importantly, consumers will be listening and presented with a future that shows how significant VR will be.
“I would anticipate that the overall effect will ignite new interest in VR way beyond the typical early adopters, with even more people curious to see for themselves what a current gen VR experience is like. Let’s hope that the overall effect is an influx of more VR users wanting to be a part of this amazing journey.”
Sam Watts, Director of Immersive Technologies at Make Real
“The old, miserable part of me didn’t especially enjoy reading a Young Adult book peppered with 80s references that felt included just for the sake of it. But I also grew up with all the games, TV shows and films in the 80s and remember (some of) them fondly. The book came out around the height of the 80s revival and felt a little OTT and ‘me-too’ as a result.
“Overall, the story is a refreshing change from the usual negative, dystopian future that VR often finds itself attached to. It reflects upon the past, present and future uses of technology and social spaces, where we have seen user customisation and individualisation be key to virtual worlds such as Second Life and more recently, social spaces such as Sansar and VRChat.
“I don’t think the film is going to drastically change a person’s opinion that thinks VR is a big, nerdy lump of tech strapped to geeks’ faces. Especially with all the gaming references, I think the message – and being Steven Spielberg, there will of course be ‘A Message’ – might be lost as to how VR can be a force for good, when applied right.
“From the trailers, it looks like it could just be a jolly good romp; a fun action film to watch and forget. And as VR developers, hopefully not cringe at too much!”
Dave Bradley, COO at Steel Media
“Anything that shows VR in a positive and exciting light is good for the industry. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Ready Player One is about nostalgia, not technology. The OASIS gear in the book and film is a means to an end, and that end is a celebration of 8-bit video games and 1980s action films.
“I expect Spielberg’s flick to be very popular, but if it inspires audiences to do anything, it will be to go rewatch The Iron Giant and Back To The Future. While I hope Ready Player One will contribute to VR appearing in the press as a zeitgeisty buzzword for a few weeks, I suspect it’s unlikely to inspire many sales of HMDs on its own.”
Tanya Laird, Founder and CEO at Digital Jam
“As someone who’s been immersed (pun intended) in the games industry for well over a decade, Ready Player One has a soft spot in my psyche since well before everyone jumped on board to use it as a flagship for explaining a future world where VR is commonplace.
“I’ve heard folks saying that RPO will be the watershed moment that introduces VR to the mainstream public, but it’s going to take more than a single movie. Whilst there are some well loved IPs within the story, these are still the niche pop culture of cult fans. When we look at the revenues, that does not the mainstream make.
“RPO is a bit of a red herring and I’m sure the Warner Bros marketing team has been wrestling with the communication/audience for the movie. It isn’t about targeting the gamers/VR fans who know what this stuff is already; it’s about opening the door to people who aren’t familiar with these things.
“Is a movie so dense with cult references, inside jokes and industry affection really going to connect to the wider public? I look forward to being proved wrong, but right now, I don’t think this is the magic bullet people seem to think it will be.”
Adrian Leu, CEO at Inition
“The book deals with a few issues which were very prescient at the time of publishing, like the democratisation of education through e-learning and MOCs, fully-serviced online worlds, metaverses, combined virtual/real currency payments and blockchain.
“And there’s a host of other elements that exist in different stages of development today, like Sansar as the follow-up to Second Life, multi-sensorial haptic and olfactive tools for virtual senses and virtual currencies.
“But these developments are insular, whereas the movie presents them as part of a totally integrated virtual world. Like other sci-fi movies, it’s about the destination, not the journey. And that lengthy journey is what the VR world is about. But, for the time being, the movie will accelerate our journey in 2hrs 20. And it’s interesting to think about the journey from the destination.”
The biggest winner will be 80s nostalgia, not VR headset manufacturers.
Debby Ruth, SVP of Global Media and Entertainment at Magid
“A magic wand. Everybody wants one for the VR industry – a shortcut that will accelerate the industry and end the content/adoption Catch-22. Is Ready Player One the magic wand?
“Our VR/AR Insights Consortium (including Warner Bros, Turner, Best Buy and A+E) shows that awareness and experience of VR is up to 4 in 10 Americans aged 18-64, from three a year before. It’s likely that the movie will benefit from this general awareness of VR more than VR will benefit from Ready Player One.
“The film will succeed in achieving what it sets out to do – engage an audience through compelling and engrossing storytelling. The movie was never intended to drive sales for headsets. Assessing the movie’s impact that way is something of a red herring.
“It will no doubt contribute to increased awareness of VR and that is certainly a positive, but no matter how successful the movie is, there won’t be a big inflection point in headset purchases until a new wave of headsets reduces the friction points of use and a sustainable library of compelling content is available.
“There is no magic wand. But there will be winners – including theaters poised to leverage the movie with their own location-based VR experiences. But the biggest winner of all will be 80s nostalgia, not VR headset manufacturers.”
Check out these other Magid posts: