UPDATED! Caveat Emptor: Social VR “Market Research Reports”

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Caveat emptor is Latin for “Let the buyer beware”.

This evening on Twitter, somebody I followed posted a link to the following social VR market research report, covering the period 2019-2024. At first glance, it looks okay:

My first clue that something was “off” was the image used to illustrate this report: it’s a very poor quality image of AltspaceVR that had clearly been resized much too large.

My second clue that something was wrong was the rather robotic text used to describe the contents of the report, which I have quoted here verbatim (except for the URLs, which I have removed for obvious reasons):

Global Social VR Market 2019 analyzes important characteristics in major developing markets in depth. The assessment involves the size of the industry, the recent trends, drivers, threats, possibilities and main sections. The research shows Social VR market dynamics for the present environment and future scenario over the forecast period in several geographic sections along with Social VR market analysis. In addition to a SWOT analysis of main players, the study also includes an extensive supplier landscape. The industry experts project Social VR market to grow at a CAGR of XX% during the period 2018-2024. It also discusses the market size and growth aspects of different segments.

Get Sample PDF (including full TOC, Tables and Figures) of Social VR Market: [URL removed]

Global Social VR market competition by top manufacturers, with production, price, revenue (value) and market share for each manufacturer: Altspace VR, High Fidelity, Padraft, WearVR, Vrideo, Emergent VR

On the basis of product, we research the production:
– Sightseeing and Chatting Type
– Interactive Games
– Interactive Music and Movie Type
– Others

This report focuses on the status and outlook for major applications/end users:
– Men
– Women

Each geographic segment of the market was independently examined with pricing and analysis, distribution, and demand data for geographic market notably:
Americas, United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, APAC, China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, India, Australia, Europe, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Russia, Spain, Middle East & Africa, Egypt, South Africa, Israel, Turkey, GCC Countries

Check the best discount on this report at [URL removed]

The first URL link in this text was to a standard form for you to fill in all your contact details to get a “sample” of the full report (and for the company to spam you forever afterward, no doubt). And the second link to the “best discount” pricing page for this report revealed some astronomically high prices, in the range of thousands of dollars: US$3,660 for a “single user” version of the market research report, US$5,490 for a “multi user” version, and US$7,320 for the “enterprise user” version!

Now, the rather strangely worded text describing this market research report sounded almost like boilerplate to me, something that someone had simply cut and pasted into a webpage, merely changing the product names (and you also might have noticed that they didn’t even bother to fill in the CAGR percentage, leaving it as XX%!). For example, I had never heard of AltspaceVR or High Fidelity being referred to as “manufacturers” before! Yet another red flag.

Furthermore, I had never heard of four of the companies listed (which, given how exhaustively and obsessively I have covered various social VR platforms on this blog for over two years, was also rather odd):

Padraft, WearVR, Vrideo, Emergent VR

So I did a little investigating and here is what I found: WearVR seems to be some sort of virtual reality app store (kind of like Steam). Vrideo is an immersive video showcase platform, while Emergent VR is an Android app for capturing 3D photos. And Padraft doesn’t seem to exist at all! To call these four disparate products “social VR” simply didn’t make sense.

So I did a Google search on that exact phrase—and BINGO! I pulled up dozens of almost identically-worded social VR market research reports, page after page after page of them in the Google search results! How very interesting that all of them had the exact same four products listed that I had never heard of before—and not only that, every report had them listed in exactly the same word order!

So by this point, all my alarm bells were ringing. What the hell was going on here?

A little more searching uncovered a possible answer: companies (many based in India) who do nothing but churn out these dubious “market research reports” for various industries, using the same template over and over again. The workers repackage Google search results and other easily-gathered data, and then sell the simplistic reports for thousands of dollars to unsuspecting businesses, using various SEO tricks to guarantee that their products will appear high in the Google search results.

One website reported on the problem of fake market research:

I’m working in one of Big Four accounting/consulting firms. We do a lot of in-house market research and regularly buy/subscribe outside market reports. Lately, I see a number of old and established boutique market research firms to close their offices in the face of increased competition from fake market research cottage industry sprouted mostly for the Indian city of Pune. 

Freshly baked Indian MBA’s are churning out thousands of new market reports weekly, playing [the] SEO [Search Engine Optimization] game on any meaningful word combination. The “analysts” in the Indian [offices] have never left their city or village in their life, less so worked in the industry they write about. In SEO, game quality does not matter, only quantity.

The small US or European market research boutiques that rely on analysts with extensive industry experience, do time-consuming surveys and interviews, dig in corporate reports and publish or maintain a few dozen report topics on annual basis are losing in this brutal spam onslaught. It’s like going old Western style with 6-loaded Colt against hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type aircraft gun spitting 3,000 round per minute.

So, caveat emptor! While this is unethical, it’s not illegal to do this. And you could view this relatively recent development as a sign that social VR has truly arrived; otherwise, why would anybody bother to try and make a quick buck off it? I mean, nobody generates market research reports for buggy whips or butter churns.

To find legitimate, professionally curated collections of market research, head to the library of your nearest university that offers a business program, and ask the library staff there to help you.

Oh, and the person who posted that link to Twitter in the first place? I immediately unfollowed him. Anybody who posts that sort of link without first checking it, is not somebody worth following. (Sorry, but it offends this research librarian.)

UPDATE Sept. 15th: Joey1058 posted the following comment on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server (I have his permission to post it here):

I just read your post about Market Research Reports. Permit me to direct you to a publication that’s been around since the early days of VRML. They’re very simply called Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. I’ve been subscribed to them for years. They publish quarterly, if I remember correctly. They take perhaps a handful of topics per publication, and their content is curated. I HIGHLY recommend them, considering the work you do. Their website is https://jvwr.net/category/home/

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Half + Half: A Brief Introduction

Not very long ago, I wrote about a company called Normal, who is marketing a multiplayer networking plugin for Unity-based games called Normcore.

Well, yesterday Normal released a new social VR experience called Half + Half, based on Normcore, which is available for the Oculus Rift and Rift S wired VR headsets, and the new Oculus Quest wireless VR headset.

Half + Half supports cross-play between devices (that is, Quest and Rift users can meet up and play together in-world). It is also a cross-buy title; if you purchase Half + Half on the Oculus Rift, you’ll be able to play it on your Oculus Quest (or vice versa) without needing to buy another copy. Half + Half is available on the Oculus Store for CAD$16.99 (Oculus Quest page, Oculus Rift page).

According to their press kit:

Launching September 12th on Oculus Quest and Rift, Half + Half is a multiplayer game developed by Normal. The culmination of four years of Normal’s research into the VR space, Half + Half features five multiplayer experiences for players to play with friends or strangers.

Half + Half is designed with a focus on creating fun and meaningful connections between players by using real-time voice chat, expressive avatars to communicate with body language, and game mechanics designed to make you look as ridiculous as possible in real life, Half + Half is Normal’s hand-crafted world built for you and your friends to hang out and have fun together.

In Half + Half, you and your friends can swim with the fishes, glide through the clouds, play hide and seek, or just… wiggle! The avatars are simply designed but absolutely charming. (They remind me of a mixture of owls, nuns, and Teletubbies!)

Here’s a one-minute promotional video for Half + Half, which gives you a real flavour of the project. It looks like fun!

Alex Coulombe has posted a Twitter thread with mini videos showing you all the parts of the hide and seek game in Half + Half he just loves! And this is just one of the many things you can experience in Half + Half.

If you want more information on Half + Half, you can follow Normal on Twitter and Instagram, or just visit the Half + Half website. (Normal also has a separate website and a blog.)

And Half + Half has been added to my comprehensive list of social VR/virtual worlds.