Technology

Is VR porn the next big niche?

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While Virtual Reality (VR) porn may feel like something out of a science fiction movie, it already has a huge presence.

According to Pornhub, views of VR porn are up 275 percent since it debuted in the summer of 2016. Now the site is averaging about 500,000 views.

When one of the largest studios in the adult entertainment industry, Kink, launched a new virtual reality focused branch of it’s site, KinkVR.com in 2015, porn industry was buzzing with the promise of virtual reality.

The New York Times had just shipped Google cardboard headsets to its subscribers and Oculus was getting ready to release the first consumer Rift. The year before Facebook purchased Oculus for 2 billion dollars, an investment in VR was about to skyrocket. There was money to be made and porn was ready to cash in.

It didn’t take long before people started speculating about porn’s ability to push VR forward. Gaming was the obvious frontrunner but as with VHS, Internet search and online commerce the myth of porn’s influence on new technologies was reignited.

For the first time since the stock market crash and subsequent vanquishing of the industry by free Youtube style sites like Porhnub in the late 2000s, it looked like porn might be poised to come back. Early successes indicated that VR could be porns next big thing.

“I think that for a while we hit this point with VR where everybody knew it’s going to be something. Everybody knew it was going to be great eventually so investors just started throwing money at VR companies,” said Ela Darling, VR content manager at Cam4VR, adding, “A lot of it it with the idea that will probably take hold. I think that the down side to that is there were companies that had cool ideas or some cool technology but no monetization strategy. Most had no big goal posts to hit with regards to users or things that could really provide a return on that investment.”

Since then most big porn empires like Kink and many other studios have shifted production to Las Vegas and are focusing their efforts on other areas.

“In the adult industry there have been people who put a lot of money into it right at the beginning. Now they are a little afraid. They are not seeing any ROI or a full return on their investment,” alias Fivestar director at Kink said.

While production and investments are slowing on most porn studios, companies like Naughty America are not backing down.

“VR is the biggest niche since MILF,” Naughty America Chief Information Officer Ian Paul said. “If you want to write it off as just a niche, and it arguably still is a niche, it’s a huge niche. It’s a niche that’s on fire. So it’s a force to be reckoned with, and it needs to be watched very very carefully, because it can easily go from being the biggest niche to the mainstream, to the dominant force in the industry, just like that.”

VR porn may feel like it is still stuck in 2015: with its limited Virtual Reality Porn (VRP) content catalogue that isn’t anywhere near the omnipresent scale of regular porn; clip quality that isn’t on par with traditional porn; and ongoing glitches and technical problems.

Despite all that, people making it still believe there is hope, including Fivestar, a director at Kink said, “There is ton of money being pumped into VR still and it’s being pumped into computers, graphic cards and experiences are becoming more compelling. And it’s just there, it’s happening. We are kind of on the precipice of it becoming a huge medium.”

What happens at the edge of precipice is anybody’s guess. You can climb your way to the top, but if your feet are too far in the wrong direction, you will fall straight off the cliff.

While it could be a while until VRP goes mainstream, one estimate projects that the Augmented reality (AR) and VR revenues will grow $14 billion in 2017 to $143 billion by 2020.

A separate estimate predicts VR porn will become a $1 billion industry by 2025 trailing only video games and the NFL in popularity.

Given porn sales have been notoriously hard to track, $1 billion is nothing to scoff at. In the end porn may not be VR’s killer application but at the very least it’s still the biggest niche since milf.

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Zeki Egeli
Zeki is a Turkish-Canadian with a background working in startups, cultural studies, and tech.