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SuperData – Why VR and AR predictions go wrong

Stats stories provide a great news injection. Companies like SuperData can showcase their knowledge and predictions. Journalists, hungry for stories with a well-substantiated platform of reasoning, take up stories with great headlines. Enthusiasts share stories widely, provided the headlines reflect their views on the industry’s growth. Research with a well-summarised headline can be shared fast and quickly across the internet – everybody wins.
Yet in many cases, research stories are wrong. Recently, SuperData announced that Oculus Quest will mainstream VR in 2019, but AR will lead by 2021 – and some doubted them as previous statistics have been proven wrong before. In 2016, Superdata downgraded their VR forecast, citing poor public awareness.
Predictions turn false, trend timelines collapse, and distaste grows. Cynicism seeps across a community when expectations fail. Consistently over the last few years, companies like SuperData have been incorrect about the immersive industry. Why might this be, and does the immersive market have particular elements which exasperate the issue?

SuperData: The trouble with research companies

SuperData occupies a strong position. Owned by Nielsen, the company provides industry-leading insights into the video games market, from esports to mobile gaming. Immersive technologies, otherwise labeled as XR by the company, is headed by Stephanie Llamas.
SuperData is widely trusted by its customers, which include Nintendo, Capcom and Twitch among many others. Their role is critical – to advise customers about where to spend, and where to reinvest. Where they say, money could flow. The company has faith that the Oculus Quest will turn expectations, though many are worried about its eventual impact.
The company is criticised for their lack of knowledge in the market, an issue many research companies face. This is false. SuperData is incredibly invested in the market and is following its trends closely, particularly AR in mobile phones. Their network is expansive, with hundreds of developers offering thoughts on the future. Notably, SuperData is correct: the immersive industry is growing. Lack of understanding is not the issue; it is the consistent overestimation of growth predictions each year.

KineticardsAn example of AR being used, from Kineticards

Baiting for clicks…

My cynical side whispers that statistics are manipulated to bring better headlines. Stat categories can be expanded to include immersive companies from different areas, or use revenue expectations over realistic models. The better the headline, the more publications and websites SuperData appears.
The immersive community accepts this. Having well-established research companies validate their opinions is a powerful force. Yet each year many people are growing tired of unmet expectations and now treat the stories with mild scorn. (This is still great for engagement as they would still and share comments with their own views).

… and why it is inaccurate

Yet I am not a cynical person, and I know the industry well. The general consensus is that, over time and with growing momentum, the number of companies using VR, AR, and MR will propagate. While venture capital is down, large companies like Google and Facebook are heavily investing in technology, expecting a surge in interest over the next ten years. The industry is playing the long game. There won’t be a ‘year of VR’; there will be a ‘decade of VR’ as the technology (alongside AR and MR) slowly develops with gradual changes. Yet the timing is hard to place, which is the crux of the issue.
The launch of standalone headsets could cause small jumps in revenue, though the extent is hard to predict. 6DOF controllers could hit the market hard, though many mainstream consumers have no idea what 6DOF means. Stats assist, though should not be used directly.

A vague insight into a concrete future

The best way of using these predictions is as general industry guidance, without necessarily looking at the hard numbers. While they provide a guide on what sectors are increasing in size rapidly, their extrapolation into the future can disappoint.
A general view of the future helps guide. For example, the industry knows mobile and enterprise AR will be massive in the future, though few analysts can agree on a particular point. For most, that is enough.
Tom Ffiske
Twitter: @TomFfiske
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