VRTUOLUO is one of the leading VR publications in China: let’s say it’s a bit like the Chinese version of Upload VR. When I was in Shenzhen, everyone was talking about them to me, and then I had also the pleasure to meet them and have a coffee with them (they’re very nice people!). I also went to their lab to try a few of the many headsets they have. The fun thing is that since it is a publication very focused on the Chinese market, outside China almost no one knows them. But in China, they are very famous, and now they are also organizing a big event about XR called FBEC with hosts from all the major VR companies (HTC, Unity, Alibaba, Huawei, etc…).
I thought it could have been great to give visibility to this very interesting magazine also in the West and at the same time ask them some questions on the current status of the VR market. So we agreed on a written interview on WeChat, which I report to you here below. In it, you can read some insights on China, VR, and the work by VRTUOLUO.
Hello… can you introduce yourself to my readers?
Hi there! It’s an honor for VRTUOLUO to be introduced by Skarredghost! I’m Chen, General Manager and Chief Editor of VRTUOLUO, also a senior media expert who has dug and studied deeply the XR industry since 2014.
VRTUOLUO is the largest Chinese media platform focusing on the XR industry and provides a one-stop service for entrepreneurs. Through comprehensive media services (mainly including media coverage, expert consultation, data research, and event and public relation management), it helps entrepreneurs with idea incubation, financing, strategy consultation, and publicity.
With the enormous influence in the XR industry, VRTUOLUO has set up dozens of industry communities (such as the Industry Executives Association, VR Game Developers Community, VR Education Community, Financing and Investment Community, Offline Entertainment Group, etc.) and covered more than 80% of the XR pioneers as communities members.
Here is our official website: https://www.vrtuoluo.cn/
What’s VRTUOLUO’s backstory? Why and how has it started?
VRTUOLUO is a vertical industry media that is subordinate to TUOLUO Tech, which is incubated by the Game industry media YOUXITUOLUO. With the trend of Gaming entrepreneurs, for example, Samsung, HTC, Sony, and Oculus transferred from games to virtual reality and we started to keep eye on the VR area. Since Meta made the acquisition and took over Oculus, VRTUOLUO began to write original and in-depth articles on the XR industry.
As per our observation, VR/AR not only has the potential to be the next-gen computing platform but could also be applied to various industries, not just the gaming area. This is the main reason why we separated VR from our game industry media and started to focus on VR and AR industries in 2014 and registered our brand in 2016. 2014 is seen as the start-up period of the XR industry, so we can say that VRTUOLUO has grown up with the industry, working in this area for several years, and now it has become the most influential XR vertical media in China.
Besides Facebook, HUAWEI, HTC Vive, Qualcomm, HP, NetEase, Epson, China Mobile, and China Telecom, VRTUOLUO is cooperating with other excellent Global enterprises, like for instance Pico, nreal, 3Glasses, Shadow Creator, Pimax, DPVR, LLVision, HiAR, etc. VRTUOLUO believes that in the future, the XR industry will become a disruptive industry and bear comparison with the current PC and smartphone industries.
You are organizing an event in China on the 24th… can you tell us something more about it?
Sure! We are organizing the Future Business EcoLink Conference 2022 and the 7th Golden Gyro Award. The ceremony (“FBEC2022”) will be held on 24th Feb at 10 am (GMT+8), in Shenzhen, China.
[Note from Tony: The conference is called FBEC 2022 even if it is held in 2023, because it is the 2022 version that has been delayed to the first months of 2023 because of the Covid restrictions]
The theme will be “Move forward with courage and chase the light”, taking the perspective of “explorers” with industry foresight and the main line of the “Light by Light” journey, focusing on the frontier fields of the Internet such as metaverse, XR, games, e-sports, and digital marketing. We will also be presenting the frontier achievements of science and technology, discussing the times and business issues, and planning the future value of new technology, new businesses, and new models. We are going on the road of courage chasing the light under drastic change and innovation together with the peers of the times!
The event focuses on the XR area, and inside it, there will be two summits and forums including the Global VR/AR Industry Development Summit, the Underlying Supply Chain Technology Summit 2022, Global Metaverse CEO Summit, The Way to Realize – XR Industry Application Forum, and META VOICE — Meta Universe Marketing Summit Customer Customized Session.
Who will be the most important speakers?
It’s no exaggeration to say that every guest for us is important, and we appreciate all of their support.
For FBEC2022, We’ve invited a string of guests, more than 150 business bigwigs from metaverse, games, XR, capital, and marketing who are not just influential in China but also overseas. For example, we invited senior executives from HUAWEI, JBD, HTC, Alibaba, iQIYI, Qualcomm, Microsoft, and so on.
Why should people attend this event? What can the attendees expect from it?
At FBEC2022, attendees will attain useful information about XR, Marketing, Gaming, trends, and so on from different talks where the speakers will share their latest opinions. Also, It will be a great chance to communicate with them directly.
Besides, an “XR Latest devices experience area” will be set up at FBEC2022, where attendees could take an immersive experience on more than 20 pieces of XR hardware, including Quest Pro, PS VR2 Nreal Air, Rokid Air, and so on.
How can people attend it and at what cost?
Everyone could get a free ticket from our website: https://www.fbec.info/ . A free ticket can be used for a general tour of summits and forums.
If you need a high-scale VIP rights, the ticket will cost 2899 RMB (circa 420 USD). There will be more services offered to VIPs: for instance, access to annual reports, a dedicated lunch, one included night in a hotel, etc. For specific information please check out the website.
Is it possible to follow it remotely from overseas?
We have video live streaming or VR live streaming for each summit. For instance, there will be a video live streaming on WeChat for the Global VR/AR Industry Development Summit and Underlying Supply Chain Technology Summit 2022. For more detail, please check out the official website which has the full agenda.
Also, we will post every speech after it finishes on our website, and some special interviews as well. Everyone can check the content for free on the website!
Talking about the Chinese ecosystem, what are the differences between the VR market in China and in the West?
I will explain two aspects of it:
1. The characters who are involved in the industrial chain.
In China, the main leaders in the industrial VR ecosystem are startup companies in the early phase, such as some VR hardware brands, like PICO, Shadow Creator, 3Glasses, DPVR, and PiMAX. On the other hand, the giant companies, with the exception of HTC and HUAWEI, seem just looking at or starting to do some research on VR for now. Their overall investment is not much and they haven’t selected VR as a strategic technology at the moment.
Additionally, the government is involved and has played a critical role in the Chinese market, and its policies, both local and national, have effectively promoted the application of VR technology in China.
However, something changed in the industry, including market construction. Startup companies are no longer exploring alone anymore, more and more companies joined the VR field, like for example ByteDance (who took over PICO), Tecent, TCL, Skyworth, YVR, iQIYI and etc. Also, Mobile Phone manufacturers like Vivo and OPPO have rumored plans to release VR hardware in the future.
Compared to the Chinese VR market, in the West, the amount of startup companies is less and the industry is basically led by tech behemoths like Google, Meta, Valve, Sony, and Microsoft. On the other hand, overseas startup companies prefer to start their own business with software or content.
There are also other significant differences between China market and the overseas.
2. The market environment is divided into business and consumer.
National business industries are promoted by the government and its policies, particularly in those areas in which the government traditionally plays a critical role, such as education, exhibition, and cultural tourism industry. Chinese business market is growing rapidly, and the enterprises’ acceptance of the latest technologies has increased significantly. In the beginning, companies were just looking to explore VR in general, but now they are going directly into vertical and professional markets because these kinds of solutions allow them to gain higher market shares and incomes.
The consumer market consists of offline and online markets [note by Tony: the offline market is the VR arcades and the stores selling VR hardware, while the online market is at-home gaming]. Due to Covid-19, in early 2020, the offline market was battered in some way. But from midyear, the market has recovered gradually and it has fully recovered this year, and some offline stores even gained more revenues than in the past.
However, the online market in China has just started. Thanks the push that PICO made last year, the Chinese VR consumer market has now gained some users. At the same time, PICO promotes the establishment of a VR ecosystem in China, supports Chinese VR developers, and also imports excellent overseas VR games into China.
Many Chinese VR developers noticed the phenomenon of Quest was trending in 2021, and from that time, there were some newcomers who joined the field and released games, and social applications in these two years.
However, the user attributes (of gamers) of the Chinese consumer market start with online games and mobile games, which means VR content’s core consumers still target hardcore gamers. Therefore, the Chinese VR market needs more time to grow and enter the average consumer field.
Besides, the price of VR devices decreased these years. This is an extremely good piece of news for expanding the consumer market. Now, the hardware companies are dealing with the lack of content with all their strength, and are offering various support programs on VR games, VR movies, VR fitness and etc.
When do you think that in China there will be a “Quest-moment”?
Quest coming to the market has been a milestone for the global VR industry. We’re expecting a Quest moment in China, and we believe it’s coming!
With the concept of Metaverse getting popular, more and more companies, as I mentioned before, agree with the vision of it and are taking action.
I think we should jump out of the current frame of VR, and use different kinds of experiences to promote the development of the market. The price of something always depends on the value offered: if a XR device is considered a game console, it is naturally compared against other game consoles like PS, XBOX, Switch, etc… which would limit its value and price to a ‘game console’.
So in my view, VR needs more different products, for instance, to watch movies, play games, study, or work, providing different use cases and breaking the gaming prison. For sure, every use case should listen to the needs of the users and solve their problems.
What are Chinese VR enthusiasts asking for?
Nowadays, the Chinese VR industry is mainly focused on Business, that is it is mainly targeted towards enterprises, institutions, and government, and has a prominent requirement in education, medicine, military, exhibition, and travel fields. XR technologies’ penetration in enterprises is rising rapidly.
Before 2020, the consumer market was mostly taking LBE form, like in experience halls and experience centers. But in 2021, with the lower price of hardware and the content ecosystem that is being built, VR started to enter the consumer at-home market. However, current physical devices are far away from the ideal VR devices. We think the next step for hardware companies will be focusing on lightening the weight and dimension of the devices, besides they need to educate users on an easier way to transmit the value of VR. Besides that, it is clear that people buy VR hardware for content and experience, so companies should invest more in building the VR ecosystem in order to attract consumers and increase the utilization of devices.
At present, the domestic purchasers of VR headsets are still basically hardcore players: the knowledge of Virtual Reality is one of the most critical factors to prompt the large-scale popularization in China. Many users have no idea of what they can do in VR, so they don’t think about what they can gain from VR companies. If VR just stopped in a niche market, it would be hard to expand it to become mainstream, so I think the core aim of current VR is to break the circle it is in.
The charm of VR needs to be experienced in person. The first step should be letting more people involved trough the offline market, like electronic city stores, smartphone operator stores, or VR experience halls, which can help increase the awareness of VR and make people get in touch with it.
The second step is to inspire users’ interest in using it. Lots of offline shops only show the devices like goods in cabinets. It’s hard to entice consumers to experience it when they don’t have a relative knowledge of VR, let alone pay for it. That’s the reason why there is the need to show the charm of VR directly in place, for example with ads and videos or someone that demonstrates the experiences live.
Thirdly, the price of the devices should be below a certain threshold. Companies had better mark down their device price to 1,000+ RMB ($155) or less, and extremely simplify the usage of the headsets which shouldn’t need any kind of learning to get started. Many users are confused about how to use them, so the wearing and use operations need to be simplified.
The last thing is content, which needs to be supported by enhanced experiences. Currently, overseas core experiences are games, but the Chinese gaming market is more complicated and has a different user payment model: this makes it hard for standalone and console games to receive nice feedback in China. VR games suffer from the same problem.
Therefore, if you want to make VR on a large scale, other kinds of VR experiences are more valuable than gaming, such as immersive education, immersive meetings, social worlds, etc.
What has been the most important XR news in China in the latest weeks?
There is some news in China recently, like rumors said Tecent is in talks with Meta to sell Quest VR headsets in China, Apple is going to release its MR headset in Q2 and etc. Every move of Tech behemoths influences the confidence of the VR market.
We also have an exclusive piece of news in February, which is that the Chinese domestic VR game Contractors has achieved more than $10 million in revenue just on the Meta Quest platform. That was inspiring!
How do you imagine the future of AR and VR?
Although these industries are in a very early stage, we believe that in the future, AR will replace smartphones eventually. The underlying technology, forms, optics, electronics, and other problems haven’t been solved yet, let alone the establishment of a content ecosystem. This is the reason why most current AR devices are focused on business applications, don’t have stringent standards, and have a high price. Once the devices resolve at least one problem for the industry, then the companies can work on decreasing the cost and increasing their efficiency, showing up their value also for consumers. The route of many new technologies applications is from military to business and then from business to domestic use: AR will likely follow a similar path.
We think the AR consumer market will start in 2025, and in the beginning, AR glasses will work in coordination with smartphones. There is no need to make a full device with complete functions, solving a part of the problem would already be great. For instance, AR glasses could work just as a head-up display through which we can read and reply to messages in real-time and don’t need to look down at the smartphone. Or having AR glasses, a smartphone, and a collapsible keyboard, we could have a big screen to work on a business trip.
When imagining the future of VR, we think there are two possibilities. The first one is that VR will integrate with AR, and comes out in one product form whose mode is switchable. The second one is that VR will be an independent technology providing full immersion, which will limit its use cases: if so, VR will very likely become an entertainment technology.
Anything else to add to this interview?
Thank you so much for the interview, it’s very nice to have a chance to talk to overseas media! For communication or news releases, VRTUOLUO welcomes every company or media that is interested in cooperation. We believe our strong industrial resources could help you to explore the Chinese VR market.
For cooperation, please contact: [email protected]
I invite you to write them to talk about potential collaborations… and if you are in China to consider attending their event. But before you do that, if you could also subscribe to my newsletter, that would be great…
(Header image by VRTUOLUO)
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