Facebook’s latest attempt to popularize virtual reality (VR) with its $200 Oculus Go VR headset is getting praise from an unexpected ally: Porn studios and their VR offshoots have high hopes for the device, with some even reporting that it is already helping to boost their revenue.
“It’s a game changer,” said Andreas Hronopoulos, the CEO of adult entertainment company Naughty America. Hronopoulos praised the price, the size and the ease-of-use of the Oculus Go, and said that his company has seen an increase in sales of VR content ever since Facebook released the device earlier this month.
“We expect it to serve as a major gateway to our content,” said Xavi Clos, head of production at BaDoinkVR, a virtual reality-focused adult entertainment company. “Facebook has emerged as an unexpected ally in the VR porn business,” he said. “The Oculus Go is the perfect porn device.”
There is no word on how big the market for VR porn is, but there are now dozens of websites catering to an audience of VR enthusiasts with an interest in X-rated fare. Most of them offer videos that follow the same formula: Shot in what’s known in the industry as POV (point of view) style, depicting the protagonist from the torso down, they give viewers wearing a headset the illusion that they are not an observer, but in the middle of the action.
With 3D and the ability to look around (albeit often only within a 180-degree sphere), these clips are meant to be more immersive, life-like than your typical porn video. And with VR porn growing, there are now clips for many different tastes. Audiences can even engage with super-heroines, thanks to sites like VRCosplay X (some of the performers of the site, which is operated by BadoinkVR, are pictured above).
The perfect porn device: Facebook is unlikely to embrace that tag line for its marketing of the Go any time soon. Officially, the company has been toeing a don’t-ask-don’t-tell line on adult content, which can be confusing at times.
Much like the operators of other app stores, Oculus isn’t allowing any adult content in its own store. But its new terms of service, which went into effect this past weekend, seemingly go a lot further. In it, Oculus is telling consumers that they “may not use or promote sexually explicit, abusive or obscene content.”
The company previously had the same language in its Code of Conduct, but elevated it by adding that Code to the Terms of Service with the most recent update. However, a company spokesperson told Variety that it had no plans to ban people who watch the occasional naughty video with the device, as long as they keep the media to themselves, and don’t bother others on the company’s social platforms.
“Our code of conduct is meant to address the kind of content people can interact with in social experiences and our content guidelines reflect the types of applications we will distribute through the store,” the spokesperson said. “ While we don’t distribute apps that violate this policy, we don’t police what people choose to interact with outside our store environment on their own.”
In fact, the Oculus Go is making it quite easy to consume content from third-party sources, including adult VR websites. The device supports sideloading of videos via USB cable, and consumers can access their personal media collections with apps like Plex VR.
What’s more, Oculus is shipping the Go with a full-featured web browser. Many providers of adult VR fare, including BadoinkVR (website not safe for work), already stream their content to VR headset browsers. Naughty America went even further, and launched a VR-optimized site (website not safe for work) the day after the Oculus Go went on sale.
For that site, Naughty America is using WebVR, an emerging standard for web-based VR experiences. WebVR is supported by a number of stakeholders, including headset manufacturers and browser makers like Mozilla, with the hopes of making it easier for developers to distribute immersive content that works on a wide variety of devices. Porn producers could be one of the earliest beneficiaries of the technology, since they are shut out of traditional app stores.
In many ways, this is reminiscent of the way the adult industry became an early adopter of mobile technologies close to a decade ago. When Apple first introduced the iPad in 2010, late CEO Steve Jobs made a point of promising the device would offer “freedom from porn,” with Apple banning adult content from its app store. The adult industry quickly responded by building websites using the then-nascent HTML5 video standard, which allowed them to stream naughty bits to the iPad without native apps.
Porn producers have been embracing VR in part because it offers them a new product to sell to consumers at a time when x-rated clips are readily available by the millions on free websites. As many of the medium’s early users have tried out VR porn, usage of these clips has also been a good indicator for the popularity of various VR headsets.
A year ago, BadoinkVR revealed that Samsung’s Gear VR headset had been the most popular device to access content on its service, accounting for around 40% of all usage. Google Cardboard made up 23% of usage, and Oculus Rift and HTC Vive together accounted for 25% of all video downloads, with Playstation VR and Google Daydream accounting for 9% and 3%, respectively.
A year later, there have been some notable shifts: In all of 2017, Gear VR was responsible for 36.8% of video downloads on BadoinkVR, with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive together coming in at 19.6%. Playstation VR was used for 11.1% of content, and Daydream once again trailed with 4.3%.
Those new numbers show a notable uptick for higher-end VR headsets, with usage of cheap Cardboard viewers slowly declining. Porn producers are now hoping that this trend will accelerate, thanks in large part to the Oculus Go.
This article was originally published by Variety