VR Industry FOMO Is An Illusion

FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out

New VR Production Company The Rogue Initiative Launches in LA

I’m sure there are people looking at how fast VR is ramping up who are thinking they’re just going to miss out, be left behind, and everyone else is going to get rich and be established and the gold rush is over and you’re going to be a peasant looking in at the fat first-mover burghers feasting while you starve outside looking in at the good time.


No. That’s just not how things work out at all.

Even less so for VR.

Everyone likes to use the analogy of the early days of film.

Let me reiterate what I said in a 2010 post about digital books.

This is one of the earliest Edison films:

Do you think anyone who worked on it back then could ever imagine the budding industry could grow into something that would create this:

No, of course they couldn’t. There was an entire spectrum of tools that needed to be created before they could ever dream of something like that. Adding sound to film had to come first. Adding color to film had to come next. And then there was an entire evolution — and revolution (thanks, Star Wars!) — in special effects that had to happen first.

But wait! you say, look at this …

The Rogue Initiative, a Los Angeles, California-based AAA VR Production Team that’s comprised of former members of MTV Films, DreamWorks, Activision and more. The company has launched with news of a round of seed funding and investments, and announced its first projects.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

… how can someone like me ever compete with such all-stars?

Why can’t you?

Do you know one of the most successful shows in television history wouldn’t have happened if its creator had known it seemed similar to another show?

I would have said to myself (and I’ve said this a lot), “Damn! All the good ideas are already taken!”

And that successful TV series happened decades and decades after the “gold rush” of early TV.

You might have heard of this TV series. It was called Breaking Bad.

Let’s have more of what series creator Vince Gilligan had to say:

Which is how I found myself in the offices of a prestigious cable network, pitching away to its president. I was about five minutes into my story, which I had titled Breaking Bad, when he idly offered, “This sounds a lot like Weeds.

“What’s Weeds?” At which point it was explained to me that Weeds was a Showtime show, new that season. In it, a suburban mom decides to throw her law-abiding life of propriety to the wind and make quick cash for her family by trying her hand at drug dealing.

Hearing this, I could feel the blood drain from my face. I turned to Zack and Jamie. “Did you know about Weeds?” “Oh, yeah,” they said. “Great show. But your thing is completely different. She deals pot and your guy deals crystal meth. Apples and oranges.”

Not my happiest moment in the business. All those weeks of hard work down the drain! Or so I thought. But Zack and Jamie were right. Breaking Bad and Weeds turned out to be different enough, if not on paper, then in execution. It seems — for a writer, at least — marijuana and meth are the psychopharmaceutical equivalents of Greek comedy and tragedy masks. One leads its characters to laughter, the other to tears. As such, the TV dial is big enough to contain both shows.

For that, I’m eternally grateful. If I had known of Weeds weeks or even days prior to that meeting, it’s likely I wouldn’t have had the will to go on. I would have said to myself (and I’ve said this a lot), “Damn! All the good ideas are already taken!”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

1) The blood draining from your face is the FOMO of VR.

2) If you’re a writer, you won’t be worried.

3) VR is big enough to contain all possibilities.

4) Just because DC published Superman, it didn’t stop others from creating Captain Marvel and countless other superheroes.

And I could go on: Just because book publishing has existed for hundreds of years doesn’t mean a Stephen King can’t come along and be a best-seller. Just because Star Trek existed didn’t mean someone couldn’t also do Lost in Space. And Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine each had their own audience.

What’s going on here? What’s the point I’m making?

If you’re not a hardware maker, there’s no FOMO for you.

There will always be room on the software side of things. (I use the term “software” in place of that loathsome lawyerly word, “content.”)

Here’s writer Christopher Fowler analyzing the success of Breaking Bad:

What quickly became apparent was that the storytelling took precedent over every traditional popular drama element. Instead of the usual structure we’re all told to pursue — ‘beats’ for action, bouts of sex or nudity, lurid scenes to spike interest — we got a traditional story played out by its participants in a carefully constructed, evenly paced narrative with six main characters and a handful of locations.

But what made it so very special?

One theory I have is that the show’s endless surprises were all character-driven, and forced you to think more deeply about what you were watching, as opposed to say ‘The Wire’ or ‘West Wing’, where plotting and dialogue was so fast that you barely registered many of the characters. In ‘Breaking Bad’ you could see what the characters are thinking and can sometimes second-guess their responses, and yet — as in real life — you can’t allow for the vicissitudes of fate.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.


Obviously none of this was accidental, but a careful response to what was becoming increasingly obvious — that you couldn’t endlessly structure shows by upping the ante on sex and violence. The most obvious lesson that writers learn is one of the toughest to master; that wilful people drive stories, not the other way around. They may be caught up in an epic sweep of events, but they are responsible for their own actions, and actions have consequences.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Despite decades of TV series, Vince Gilligan still managed to do something different.

There’s going to be a lot of successful VR in the beginning. Just as there was in the early days of the successful Apple II computer and the iPhone.

Early success doesn’t matter. Companies come and go. Success is fickle, transient, and so much depends on unacknowledged luck.

Properly imagined and produced VR will have a longer life than the initial novelty sales. Stop and think: How many people will want to try a roller coaster VR after the first time? So much of early VR will be cheap thrills along those lines.

Like the success of Breaking Bad — which, I’ll repeat, happened decades after the “gold rush” of early TV — VR will want more than one-off “experiences.” Its mass acceptance and longevity will require something that people will want to return to, over and over.

Pasteur said, Chance favors the prepared mind.

Forget FOMO. Keep getting prepared.

Previously here:

Virtual Reality category

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