HTC announces a subscription service for the HTC Vive VR headset, with the new Viveport-based service set to act in a similar fashion to Netflix and Spotify.
With digital distribution becoming an ever-greater part of the market for all sorts of media, it's no surprise to see subscription-based services becoming more and more popular. While console gamers have had services of their own in the form of Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus, other subscription plans such as Netflix and Spotify have also grown to be hugely popular. Now, it looks as though HTC is looking to get in on the game for Virtual Reality, with a subscription service set to come to the HTC Vive.
This service was revealed by HTC during CES 2017, and will act in conjunction with the HTC Vive Viveport VR app store, as confirmed by Variety. The service will allow subscribers to get hold of VR content for the device without paying for each individual item. According to Viveport President Rickard Steiber, the subscription service will be similar to that of Spotify or Netflix, aiming to attract users through monthly subscriptions rather than one-off sales.
This will apparently work alongside an active plan to increase the number of items available on the Viveport app store itself, with Steiber stating that 3,000 VR titles should be available through the store before the end of 2017. At the moment, no pricing plan has been announced, but the service is set to launch within the next few months.
Alongside this subscription service, the standard app store model will also be in place, so Vive users after a pay-per-app system will not miss out. However, this split business model has caused a conundrum for HTC, as The Verge has confirmed that the company plans to make the subscription service an opt-in for app creators. Should insufficient developers sign up for the subscription model, then there might not be enough content there for Vive users to feel that signing up to monthly payments is worthwhile.
This could lead to something of a fine balancing act for HTC, as it will need to entice developers with a good enough deal to make up for any potential losses in terms of app purchases. This is an area where some subscriptions services have struggled, with the cut of Spotify stream income going to music creators acting as a regular bone of contention for music creators. Hopefully, the HTC subscription service will be fair to developers, Vive users, and to HTC as well.
The success of this subscription service could prove to be a real boon for HTC, however, and help turn the tide of PlayStation VR's control of the Virtual Reality market share. With some still critical over the depth of VR content, and even Oculus CTO John Carmack suggesting that VR is "coasting on novelty," a subscription model may be tempting - after all, it would allow users to try out plenty of different apps to try and find creations that make the best use of VR. Let's see what HTC is able to offer when more finite details surface.