Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has poured scepticism on the hype surrounding VR post launch by voicing concerns about the cost and space requirement of current systems, mostly (by the sounds of it) the HTC Vive.
Strauss Zelnick isn’t exactly what you’d call a VR zealot. The CEO of Take-Two, the company behind some of the most successful gaming franchises out there, the biggest being Grand Theft Auto, has previously voiced doubts about virtual reality’s mainstream appeal and potential market penetration.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV back in November 2014, Zelnick voiced concerns over the long term comfort of the then emerging Oculus Rift headset (before the HTC Vive had appeared on the scene). “We are concerned that you’ll play our games for a long period of time — we don’t want people getting nauseated. And also, having had the experience, I’m not sure how long you want an immersive headset on your head.” However, back then, Zelnick was cautiously open to the idea that, should consumers demand it, Take-Two would provide VR support “If that’s what consumers want, we’ll be first in line to give it to them.”
Now, in an interview with Gamespot, in the wake of the roll out of the first consumer VR headsets, Zelnick has once again aired scepticism, with his worries primarily centered around cost and space requirements. “It’s way too expensive right now,” Zelnick said at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, “There is no market for a $2000 entertainment device that requires you to dedicate a room to the activity. I don’t know what people could be thinking. Maybe some of the people in this room have a room to dedicate to an entertainment activity, but back here in the real world? That’s not what we have in America.”
The cost criticism is of course applicable to both the Oculus Rift ($599) and the HTC Vive ($799), both of which were launched around the beginning of April. But the overall argument, that of space requirements, seems to be levelled at the Vive’s room-scale focus. “We have like $300 to spend on an entertainment device and we do not have a dedicated room. We have a room for a screen, a couch, and controllers,” he added. “We don’t have something where you stand in a big open space and hold two controllers with something on your head–and not crash into the coffee table. We don’t have that.”
These are both entirely valid concerns of course, and they hold particular weight coming from such an obviously influential figure in the games industry. But, as he has in the past, Zelnick is quick to state that he still finds the technology interesting. “I’m not unexcited; I’m just saying it remains to be seen,” he says.
Whilst Zelnick’s remarks are clearly targeted at a mainstream scale, we do of course disagree with the assertion there’s “no market”, with both Oculus and HTC struggling to keep up with pre-order demands right out of the gate and the mass market awareness of VR increasing by the day, this ‘core gamer’ audience is growing fast.
Zelnick’s concerns however do seem to ignore the advent of Sony’s PlayStation VR, due to arrive on the market in October this year from $399, albeit with the requirement for additional hardware, not least of which the PS4 console itself. But, like the Oculus Rift, PSVR’s focus is very much the standing and seated experience and it’s hoped that Sony’s headset, sporting a much lower price of entry than its higher fidelity, PC-based competitors, will help the eventual mass adoption rate for VR. It’ll be interesting to see whether Zelnick’s tune changes should PSVR fly off the shelves later in the year.