VR Porn: A Year-End Snapshot

VR Porn: A Year-End Snapshot
Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — 2017 began with high hopes that this would be the year that virtual reality would “save the porn industry” and spur a revival of its revenues — but has this promise been fulfilled?

As 2016 came to a close, the industry’s optimism over VR wasn’t unfounded, as anyone who has experienced quality VR porn has witnessed a highly transformative media that will eventually disrupt everything in society — our bedrooms included.

Thus, the new year began with a flurry of new VR content releases underscoring the keen interest in the technology on the part of producers seeking to grab an edge in our highly competitive marketplace; but rather than accelerating throughout 2017, as the year has wound down, so have the new VR releases, providing a clear indication of a lack of widespread consumer demand.

Another clear example comes from the mainstream, including device manufacturers: The holiday season drives American tech retail sales. How many hot new VR systems did you see being advertised?

This isn’t a problem limited to adult entertainment, as there has been a disappointing lack of quality VR titles available from major studios as well; putting consumers into a “chicken or egg” situation, where there is not enough (good) content to justify purchasing/bothering with a headset; while producers see the small number of potential customers using VR and thus shy away from investment. There are many other obstacles to adoption as well, including the amount and cost of bandwidth to deliver VR and the formidable technical requirements — especially for high-end systems that leave consumers with sticker shock when they see the price tag.

While technologists and early-adopters didn’t need an invitation to jump on the platform’s promise, the uphill learning curve that forced new shooting methods and need for capital investment in an uncertain market took its toll on producers and left consumers confused over the options.

The highpoint for VR porn in 2017 came at XBIZ Miami, which debuted the XBIZ VR Shootout, bringing together the industry’s top VR cam, content, and service providers to showcase the bleeding edge of this experience to an awe-struck audience — many of whom were discovering VR (and live VR camming) for the first time. The energy was electric and extremely positive at the VR Shootout, with a palpable participant feeling of “I wonder what it will look like next year?”

With next year only a few days away, I have to wonder how much (if anything) has changed over 2017 — and I am not alone, with an active discussion now underway on XBIZ.net, where a group of industry pros are sharing their insider perspectives on VR content production, distribution and marketing.

Given the market’s realities, it’s not surprising that a range of results are being reported, with some once-bullish backers noting lackluster affiliate and content sales. For others, especially those with an exclusive focus on VR, growth is the name of the game, despite comparisons to 3D porn’s fad and flop.

Beyond XBIZ.net’s walled garden of expertise, the wider industry is also revealing its VR results to-date.

For example, one company reporting “an exponential increase” in VR sales this Christmas season is xHamster.

During the Christmas period, the demand for adult VR content on xHamster’s side project, VirtualTaboo, a platform offering exclusive VR content, roleplays and unlimited access to 180-degree immersive VR porn designed to please the most demanding users, grew four times compared to the previous month — and includes a significant increase in related adult gifts sales.

“It proves to be a growing trend,” VirtualTaboo CEO Capo Ward explains, “buying VR helmets and cardboards as holiday gifts.”

It should be noted that this trend is especially interesting as the overall traffic on xHamster during 2017’s Christmas break decreased by 22 percent in the U.K.; 20 percent in Italy, France, and Norway; and by 10 percent in the U.S.

Regardless of any slowdown in sales, production, or development of technology, the industry remains justified in its hope for VR success beyond even the most ambitious evangelists’ optimism. It will just be a matter of time — and a discussion to revisit a year from now, when 2019 looms.

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