- Do you want to make an amazing experience that is perfect for a platform?
- Do you need to "dilute" the experience to appeal to a wider audience?
- Perhaps your idea could only work on one platform?
- Perhaps your idea naturally works well with all platforms anyway?
- Perhaps you have the resources to "do it right" everywhere?
- Maybe you don't care about quality?
- Are you more concerned with the business prospects of your title, or the artistic merits?
Make sure you know what you are getting into! The answers to the questions above will help you find your path.
As of today (mid-2018) there are four major players in the VR industry: HTC, Oculus, Sony, and Microsoft. No two products are alike and each have their own technical pros and cons, which I'll leave to you to explore. I can, however, dive into some details of the business and economic landscape surrounding the various platforms.
- Playstation VR is the best-selling head-and-two-hands device (as of mid-2018), as measured by the active consumers actually buying content in the ecosystem. If you can create a hit for PS VR, you'll do the best on this platform over any other. However, the platform is difficult to develop for. CPU-speed restrictions, a single tracking camera, getting onto the platform in the first place, etc... If your product works well with it, I strongly recommend targeting PS VR as your best bet to turn a profit.
- The Valve-designed HTC Vive comes in second-place in terms of money-making potential, but is clearly first-by-a-mile as a representative of what VR will be in the future. It has the fidelity and the feature-set that squarely places it in the "premium" category. Very well built, but the cost (not just of the unit - but a PC to drive it) drastically reduces the install base. I strongly recommend developing for the HTC Vive if you are interested in making things that could only ever exist in VR, and you want to hone your skillset for the future.
- The Oculus Rift and Microsoft MR devices sit squarely in the middle of the spectrum. They have "good enough" 360-fidelity - better than PS VR, worse than Vive - and strikes a very nice balance between unit-cost and application potential. However, their relative install base puts them in (close!) third place. Given time, I would assume the lower cost of these units will get them ahead in the market, but that will largely depend on their platforms' marketing and developer support efforts moving forward.
- Mobile VR is nice (no cables! everyone agrees we want this!) but, so far, lacks tracked hands (along with other performance restrictions for the hardware). The install base here is humongous, with dozens of knock-offs and cheap (Google Cardboard) to more fancy (GearVR) solutions available, but I have not yet heard of an application developer turning a profit in this market without external support or investment from platform holders or VCs. Unless you have a clear way to mitigate your risk of bankruptcy in the space, I warn everyone away.
New Tech is always the best place to be. When a new device launches, there is a lot of consumer interest and plenty of day-one sales, so that might change the formula for you a bit. This is also why there are plenty of success stories from 2016, when a ton of devices launched, but very few from 2017.
There is also a lot more support for launch titles from platforms and vendors. This was true for mobile VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PS VR, and Microsoft MR launches -- and one can reasonably assume it will be true for future products. Keep an eye out for new platforms (they ARE coming) and stay in touch with the hardware developers. Being on a bleeding edge usually pays!
One school of thought is to "launch everywhere" - if you can launch on all platforms, you majorly increase your chance of long-term success. As each of these markets require a hefty hardware purchase, sales don't cannabalize from each other. Apps like these could be easier to make, as "lowest common denominator" development will drive you closer to non-VR design practices, and you gain multiple funding sources by targeting multiple platforms. However, spanning multiple platforms may also incur significant effort to "do it right" if the product isn't a natural fit for each platforms' quirks. Businesses can be built on this model.
Another school of thought says that "the killer app for VR could only exist in VR" and an app that is tailor-made for the strengths of a singular device will have a design clarity that others lack. For example, it is difficult to make a tennis game in VR if your hands need to be in front of your face for tracking, and it is difficult to translate a full-room-traversal game into a seated experience. This work is hard, but it is where all the breakthroughs in the "language of VR interaction" are being made. By targeting a singular platform, you have less funding opportunities, but a greater chance at a closer partnership with singular companies (e.g. exclusives). Heroes can be made on this model.
This is one of a handful of VR advice pages I've written. Check out the index for more.