It’s that time of year again, when people who have never dribbled a basketball suddenly start foaming at the mouth withNCAA basketball bracket fever, and now they can obsess over the game in virtual reality as well.
For the second year in a row, the NCAA has teamed up with Oculus to offer the free NCAA March Madness Live app, which attempts to immerse users in the excitement of the annual college hoops tournament.
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But like so many other sports apps being offered for Samsung Gear VR users via Oculus app, for some reason, they decided to skip offering a version of the app for the people who dropped hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars more to set up higher endOculus Rift systems.
Why are they doing this?
One guess is that, because so many Gear VR devices have been sold (about 5 million according to Samsung) compared to higher-end systems like the Rift (Oculus hasn’t released its numbers, but Rift sales are estimated to be significantly lower), some VR app producers are playing to a supposedly larger audience by focusing on the Gear VR.
The somewhat flawed assumption here is that the number of mobile VR devices sold corresponds to people likely to actually use VR.
That strategy might make sense if VR were already an established platform, with clear trend lines and user habits, but it isn’t. So, once again, the most passionate VR users (who, arguably, invested in Oculus’ Rift) are being asked to either scale down to aGear VR (assuming they also have a Samsung smartphone) or simply skip the NCAA VR experience altogether.
And that’s a shame, because the app is pretty well produced. Using the app you can watch up to six live games in VR, customize certain aspects of the experience to match your team preferences and keep track of team stats as well as the tournament brackets as they change leading up to the championship.
Users will be able to start watching games on March 23, with in-app purchases of $1.99 per game for a single camera view or $2.99 per game for a multi-angle, fully produced liveVR game viewing experience ($7.99 will get you all six games in the series).
Most of these live VR experiences (from other producers and apps) through mobile devices don’t reveal specific event user numbers, so it’s hard to determine just how wise it is to leave out the passionate Rift user base to focus only on mobile VR users in this case.
And in case there was any doubt about this platform “rift,” it turns out that the majority of comments on the Oculus blog announcing the Gear VR app on Tuesday were, as of this writing, from salty Rift users wondering why they’ve been left out.
It’s a good question.
We asked Oculus about allowing Rift users to access the app but, so far, have yet to get a solid answer. For now, Rift-using VR lovers will just have to watchMarch Madness the old fashioned way: through a TV or computer screen, like everybody else. Snooze.