Earlier this week, we discussed how the run-up to the release of Google’s Daydream View headset had resulted in higher download numbers for its less glamorous cousin, Google Cardboard. Google's early attempt to democratize VR has helped persuade publishers to dip their toes in the water. These have included major media companies that may now significantly drive Google's VR offerings.
On the Daydream site, Google classifies VR content into three groups:
- Games, which will be a leading “pure play” VR content type
- Personal Cinema,video content that is not necessarily immersive but can be watched in an optimized experience
- New Worlds, which may include virtual tours, explorations, educational or personal content and other VR scenarios
The last category allows media companies to provide a taste of VR without a great investment so it’s attracted some major media brands, including CNN, the BBC, The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. Looking at the monthly active users of these apps provides a sense of which have the most power to promote Daydream and its content.
Monthly Active Users of Google Play apps, 10/18/16 to 11/17/16. Source: Apptopia
Of course, the impact of this promotion will depend on many variables, including how aggressively they promote, the amount and quality of their VR content, and their audience demographics. In addition, in at least some cases, such as for The New York Times and USA Today, users will have to download a separate VR app. Of course, apps don’t represent the entirety of these companies’ promotional power, but they are the most contextually relevant way to promote VR experiences and, by extension, Daydream.
The audience for these media properties collectively represent a serious-minded crowd. That's not the end of the New Worlds’ lineup however. Google is optimizing several of its own services, including Google Street View, the recently upgraded Google Photos, and Google Arts & Culture, for Daydream. It’s also sprung for the rights to the VR companion experience of the Fantastic Beasts Harry Potter offshoot film, as part of a broader partnership with Warner Brothers.
Fantastic Beasts VR app. Source: Google Play
With Daydream experiences limited to Pixel phone ownership for the near term, development of Daydream content will be doing more to raise awareness of the medium and appeal to early adopters than recognize short-term revenue. Still, Daydream at this point represents the best compromise between a quality VR experience that’s affordable assuming the sunk cost of a smartphone. That assumption will have to become easier to fulfill in the coming year.