By CHRIS McGOWAN
A player wearing virtual reality gear slashes the music beats with light sabers in the VR game Beat Saber, created by a small team of Czech video game developers. (Image copyright © 2018 Beat Games, Oculus Studios and Facebook)
Virtual reality had its ups and downs in 2020. The pandemic boosted VR home usage, but disrupted headset supply chains in Q2. In addition, theme parks and other location-based entertainment centers shut down, closing many VR attractions for part of the year.
SuperData (a Nielsen company) projects total worldwide VR hardware and software revenue for 2020 of $3.2 billion, a slight drop from $3.3 billion the previous year, with that figure rising to $3.9 billion in 2021 and $6.2 billion in 2023. Among the bright notes: big tech firms continue to invest heavily in VR, hardware keeps improving, and breakthrough titles like Beat Saber, Half-Life: Alyx and Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series, along with a wide variety of new experiences, are luring new users.
Beat Saber has been something of a killer app for more than two years now and continues to inspire people to purchase their first virtual reality headsets. It is an addictive VR “rhythm game” in which the player slashes the cube-like “beats” of various pop songs with a pair of light sabers – kind of like Guitar Hero meets Star Wars. It was initially developed by Czech programmers Ján Ilavský and Vladimír Hrinčár, who had been building games together since high school and had published Chameleon Run, a mobile game that won an Apple Design Award in 2016.