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Unity CEO John Riccitiello participated in an "Ask Me Anything" session over on Reddit today, and in the course of answering questions about nested prefabs (they're coming) and Mass Effect (he likes it) he also shared some thoughts on where he thinks the virtual reality business is headed.
Specifically, Riccitiello says he thinks VR will be "mainstream" by 2020, when he estimates 100 million people around the world will be using the tech regularly. This is worth noting because Unity has managed a widely-used multi-platform game engine amid the recent rise of VR development, so it likely has a rough idea of how many people are making games -- and playing games -- across every major VR headset.
Of course it also has a vested interest in seeing the VR market expand and stabilize -- this year the company raised $181 million in investment to fund VR/AR initiatives, and just last week released a version of its Unity editor that's usable in VR. Riccitiello said as much on Reddit today, writing that "I am a huge believer, long term, in AR / VR."
"But," he continued, "I think it is going to take a few years for these platforms to reach audiences of 10's or 100's of millions like today's game consoles, or even billions like mobile does today. Net -- 2017 will be a growth year, but likely not explosive growth. Watch for big / massive games in 3 to 5 years."
Elsewhere he estimated that while the majority of the VR game market (roughly 2/3rds) is currently games, he believes in the long run the market will shift and be dominated by non-game apps. You can read more of his comments in the full Reddit thread.