There’s Now a Netflix-Like Service for Virtual Reality

Apr 03, 2017

HTC has a new plan to popularize virtual reality.

The Taiwanese smartphone maker plans to debut Wednesday a monthly subscription service for virtual reality media like video games and short interactive films.

For $7 a month, people can download five up to VR titles from HTC’s online Viveport store, and then switch them out with other titles the next month if they want. The company is pitching the new service as a way for customers to “try an app before they decide to buy.”

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Some of the apps that are available for the new subscription service include Everest VR, which lets people climb the dangerous peaks of Mount Everest in virtual reality, and Mars Odyssey, a VR recreation of Mars’s surface that lets people walk around the red planet like astronauts.

The new service is only available to people who have purchased the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. Owners of rival devices like Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR headset can download VR apps from the respective online stores.

Many analysts have argued there is a dearth of compelling virtual reality content, which gives people less of a reason to buy an expensive VR headset that can cost up to $800 plus a powerful computer.

With the new service, HTC can perhaps convince customers to download several apps at a time and buy VR games or shorts that they may have otherwise not.

The company is also pitching the new service as beneficial to VR developers who can now reach more potential customers and “represents an additional revenue channel” but did not elaborate. Presumably, HTC will share a portion of the monthly subscription cost with VR studios and developers.

HTC also said that it would lower the price of its HTC Vive headset for one day on Apr. 5 by $100 for new customers. The Vive headset will cost $700 on Wednesday but then return to its $800 price the next day.

In March, Facebook (fb) dropped the price of its Oculus Rift to $500. The Sony PlayStation VR headset costs $400 and requires a PlayStation 4 to operate.

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