VR will be big, AR will be bigger and take longer.” What sounded revolutionary when we first said it two years ago has become accepted wisdom. But now the market has actually launched, and we’ve got 12 months of real-world performance and major tech players’ strategies emerging. And that’s changed our views on VR/AR growth. A lot.
Our new base case is that mobile AR could become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021 (underperform $94 billion, outperform $122 billion), with AR taking the lion’s share of $83 billion and VR $25 billion.
What went right (and wrong) last year
Let’s start with the less than happy times. Facebook (Oculus Rift) and HTC (Vive) had growing pains at launch, whether slower than expected shipping or order cancellations. Oculus launched without Touch controllers, which eventually cost $199 instead of being bundled (i.e. non-PC full system costs hit $798 — the same as HTC Vive). Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 saw part of its mobile VR ambitions literally go up in smoke, as the new Gear VR was designed to be compatible with that flagship device. Magic Leap also received a boatload of speculation about the tech it used to raise $1.4 billion.
Thankfully Nintendo/The Pokémon Company/Niantic had a breakout success that even they didn’t anticipate. Pokémon GO delivered $600 million in mobile AR revenue in its first three months alone, making more money through the year than the entire VR games software market in 2016. While this came from a very specific set of circumstances, there have been direct knock-on effects for major tech companies’ mobile AR strategies.
As well as Sony’s solid launch of PlayStation VR, the quiet achiever last year was Google. It launched its Daydream View mobile VR headset/controller and the first Tango mobile AR phone. What helped even more was Snap’s genius launch of Spectacles, which made wearing goofy future glasses cool again (no more Glassholes), even though it isn’t really AR.