Let Me Watch On the Headset I Actually Own

Cloudhead Games’ Denny Unger shows off a cacophony of VR headsets

Another pain point for the end-user of VR sports viewing is platform availability. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I have a good excuse to own every headset under the sun, but—needless to say—most people only have need for a single headset. But the particular headset you own will have a significant impact on which VR sports broadcasts you can actually view.

You might expect that the high-end headsets like the Rift and Vive (costing $500 and up) would be the place where you’d find the majority of this kind of content. But actually the opposite is true. The majority of VR sports broadcasting apps and platforms are available only on Gear VR.

That’s especially weird for owners of the Rift, because both the Rift and Gear VR run stores operated by Oculus; you can imagine it would be frustrating to have shelled out for the high-end headset but not be allowed to access the content that’s available on a much less expensive headset—as if a movie was released only on DVD and your Blu-ray player couldn’t play it.

Weirder yet, Oculus itself has funded VR sports content—like the sports documentary Follow My Leadthat’s exclusively available on Gear VR but not on the Rift.

With support for both Gear VR and Daydream, NextVR actually covers more platforms than most companies doing VR sports broadcasting (which only support single platform), but even then there’s still a majority of leading platforms missing—HTC Vive, PSVR, and the Rift—and there’s a long way to go before you can expect to watch sports in VR no matter what headset you own.

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Cole says that—for NextVR anyway—starting with mobile makes sense because it’s easier to target the more technically constrained platform and work your way up, rather than targeting the high-end and then need to heavily optimize your way down.

“…mobile was the hardest to get right—with so much optimization needed to deliver a solid experience that lasts for an entire NBA game or concert. Mobile is development resource-hungry,” he said.

next3d nextstream360 tbs oculus rift
Photo courtesy NextVR

And there’s another huge factor that’s driving a lot of the Gear VR-only action for VR sports broadcasting: it’s the single largest VR platform out there right now, with more than 5 million headsets. If you’re only going to support one platform to start, and want to get as many eyeballs on your content as possible (and you can bet that’s the #1 thing that broadcasters want), you’d better pick Gear VR. According to the best estimates, 5 million Gear VR headsets is more than the install base of the Rift, Vive, and PSVR combined, to give some scale.

“[Mobile is] where the user numbers are highest, so, it cannot be ignored,” Cole puts it, succinctly.

But he confirms that the company ultimately wants to support a wide range of platforms, and the next one isn’t too far off.

“There are many more platforms coming from NextVR. The next one should be out before the end-of-summer.”

And the rest of the VR sports broadcasters out there? “I think you’ll see more platform diversity from all the VR broadcast players this year,” Cole says.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Oli Norwell

    There’s clearly so much potential here, the lack of social features is limiting but then like the guy says, that’s easier said than done, thanks to the possibility of users being a few seconds apart in a stream. Maybe this could be fixed by the stream going to an advert during a break in play that in itself had the job of giving a different length of advert to each person to get them back in sync for when play resumes 30 seconds later. (they’re welcome to that idea by the way!).

    I think in 10 years’ time this will be common place. Early days, I think we should all do what we can to support it.

  • Keith.

    “There are many more platforms coming from NextVR. The next one should be out before the end-of-summer.”

    Great news — as a PSVR owner, sure hope it’s us. Baseball, football, hockey, concerts — give it to me all in VR.

  • ummm…

    I suppose securing the patronage of whoever got a gear for xmas and leaves it under their bed to collect dust, is more important than securing the patronage of the hardcore vr enthusiasts that actually bought into the tech (i.e. vive, oculus).

  • After experiencing VR it get’s clear the glasses-free Ultra-D screens is the future, half way between VR and 3D, but without anything disturbing on your head, you can share your beer with your friends, you can move and see slightly different angles, you don’t need glasses nor headset or to be on a specific spot. You can be yourself with your friends…

    • Jesus’s Best Friend Floyd

      Wrong. Not even close to the 360 degree VRexperience