In China, the year 2016 has became or known as “Year One” of virtual reality, mainly because of the sector has finally truly started to mature and grow. It is estimated that China’s VR hardware 2016 market size will reach $300 million by the end of December 2016 with mobile Virtual Reality leading the way in terms of hardware unit sales. While a lot of hype was from the West when Virtual Reality was first introduced, VR was actually embraced more in China, where consumers have shown a willingness to actually go out and purchase a VR device or experience, whereas consumers in the West has somewhat only show interest.

While consumer demand is driven by what is there to be purchased, however in China, one can actually engage in VR experiences, such as VR pods or cafes, whereas consumers in the US don’t have that yet. According to a recent survey conducted earlier this year, it showed that Chinese gamers are interested in VR and approximately 30% of them are more than willing to spend up to $200 USD on one device which is a significant figure considering the average income in China barely reach $15,000 per year.

2017: The Year Of China's Virtual Reality HTC Vive VR Cafe China
Source: vrscout

In just the first quarter of 2016, a study has counted around 200 VR and augmented reality (AR) startups, and almost 200 established companies expanding into VR and AR, in China alone, and this does not include the more new companies emerging monthly. Around 78% of the total investments made in all VR related products in 2015 and 2016 accounts from hardware investments alone. And that very same investment has pioneered a surge in VR hardware sales this year while the same cannot be said for software sales growth however. While both development and sales of VR software might have been slow, experts studied that it should take off in the coming years.

Put both mobile VR and PC/Console VR into comparison and the mobile VR hardware would come out on top. A number of factors accounts to why mobile VR is more popular than its counterpart. This is due to mobile platform companies such as Xiaomi & Huawei, and startups like Deepoon, Baofeng Mojing and Pico VR, have made mobile VR devices as convenient as shopping for clothings both in offline and online retail stores. Compared to console VRs, the price of mobile VRs are considerably cheaper and affordable. According to a report from T-Mall, an overwhelming majority of the 300,000 mobile VR headsets sold during the 11.11 shopping holiday cost no more than 30 yuan, very similar to the price of the Google Cardboard in the West. These mobile VR headsets are easy to use and works with almost all smartphones, which is in a way more appealing than those high-end expensive VR hardware.

While mobile VR is aimed towards the lower-end consumers, hgih-end PC VR is targeted to businesses due to its sheer price difference. For instance, the HTC Vive costs approximately $1,000 USD in China which requires a high-end PC as well which could also cost an additional $1,000 USD. Therefore, the Chinese business solution has suggested to open Internet Cafe’s and VR experience zones.

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As of now, there are more than 3,000 VR Internet Cafes and experience zones that provide a dedicated and immersive VR experience for a mere $8 USD for 30 minutes. Just recently, HTC has opened a new experience arcade store in Shenzen and plans for more. The leading provider of Internet cafe management software, Shunwang, has launched a VR-ready version of the software for cafe owners. Apart from providing video games, VR gaming represents another opportunity for VR Internet cafe operators to further venture their business and grow revenue streams.

Unlike Internet cafes, smaller VR experience spots tend to be in the form of a motorized pod that a person sits inside which provides the user a one-off experience. An example of one such experience is where a user sees himself fending off zombies in a dark backyard. These experience zones have proven to be extremely popular which has led to a number of companies investing in the next major step up, not to forgot, startups as well. A whopping $350 million has been invested into VR by Shanda, a major Chinese digital entertainment company, which in hopes to bring U.S. based ‘The Void’ VR theme park into China. ‘The Void’ is similar to the laser tag but with a full sense of immersion with the VR headset.

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The observation is that China has already begun to go into the next age of technology and are actively investing in the highly-promising segments of VR in our daily lives. Major businesses like Alibaba, Xiaomi, HTC, Shanda, and Tencent are beginning to embrace VR in earnest. So, what are you waiting for?? Embrace the future and immerse yourself into the beautiful world of Virtual Reality with a pair of VR headset!

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