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Netflix VR is a free application available to download in the Google Play Store. It is meant to work in conjunction with your mobile phone and VR headset device. It offers an immersive VR viewing experience for its users. Imagine sitting in a comfortable virtual sitting room with all outside interference blocked out so you can enjoy a plethora of Movies, TV shows, and documentaries with ease. Sounds like an amazing viewing experience for sure, so why is it getting absolutely slated with thousands of one-star reviews on the Google Play Store? Let’s get into it to find out!
Problems with the First Version of Netflix VR
Unfortunately, the main frustration that people found who tried out the app more than a couple of years ago is that they couldn’t run it properly. The app was initially designed specifically for the Dream Vision VR in mind and only really functioned when using the dream vision device. Hundreds of users were downloading the app thinking they were moments away from an amazing viewing experience.
The reality for many though, is that once they got to the opening scene, they couldn’t get any further. That was because the Netflix VR app was meant to only be navigated through using Dream and most other Bluetooth controllers were unusable. This meant that even though you might get as far as the home screen, you wouldn’t be able to click on anything or start viewing any content.
I can understand many people’s anger at this but leaving one-star reviews distorts the results and is unfair to those who owned Dream Vision headsets and wanted a quality viewing experience. Not being able to use the app doesn’t mean the app itself is bad and for those who can use it, these reviews are very unfair as the overall experience is quite decent once it’s running properly. Also, these reviews are badly dated as Netflix VR has been updated to run flawlessly on all Oculus devices so you should definitely ignore any reviews you see on the Google Play Store.
Neflix VR Updated for Dream Vision and Oculus Meta Quest 2
So for all you lucky Dream vision headset owners or Oculus Meta owners out there, what can you expect? Well, access to Netflix’s full library of movies and TV shows for a start. As long as you have a Netflix subscription, and let’s face it … everyone does! You can view the full library through your VR lens. Not only that, but the virtual space you sit in is a stylish 3D rendered sitting room with a big screen TV in front of you. Best watched with headphones, this calming 3D space offers the perfect environment to inhabit and watch the movie or TV show of your choice while blocking out the real world and getting fully engrossed in your experience.
Netflix VR Viewing Experience
A neat idea for sure, but is it good? To be honest, it’s just pretty average. If this was your first-time watching content through VR then it wouldn’t leave you wanting more. The visuals are streamed at quite a low resolution at around 720p. This is neither good nor is it terrible, but it certainly isn’t the best way to experience blockbusters with bombastic visuals or special effects. VR itself isn’t really designed either for long use sessions. The headset will start to feel uncomfortable and overly warm the longer you watch. Add that to the kind of fuzzy visuals, and after an hour or so, you’ll be left very underwhelmed and also a little disorientated. I found after taking the mask off, I was a bit dizzy and my eyes very heavy and tired. I’m very used to VR and don’t normally suffer from any motion sickness but this experience definitely left me feeling a little off, not queasy but definitely disorientated. So this is definitely not the greatest app or even the greatest way to watch movies or TV shows.
VR Movie App Competition
To add insult to injury, when you compare Netflix VR to its competition, it is the weakest performer in the bunch. Apps like Skybox, Virtual Desktop, and BigScreen offer multiple viewing environments and even social lobbies with shared viewing experiences. BigScreen, in particular, stands out with lots of additional fun layers to play around with. You can create a funky avatar and watch movies at allotted times with friends. It’s as close to getting to the cinema with friends virtually. In a time of uncertainty and lockdowns coming into play in different countries all the time, this gimmick may be an essential social outlet for some and definitely shines when compared to Netflix VR.
For me though, the crown for the best streaming app in VR has to go to Amazon Prime. Their library is larger than Netflix (when it comes to movies collection at least) and the resolution is far higher than with the Netflix VR app. The overall experience is far superior and watching movies this way is very enjoyable. Even though I’m still wearing the same headset and staying immersed for long periods of time, I didn’t have the same woozy feeling I got from Netflix VR. I believe that higher resolution and clarity helped to lessen the eye strain and disorientation that I previously experienced.
Netflix VR is A Non-Starter
So we’ve covered the disastrous start Netflix had with only supporting the Dream vision headset. Later adding Oculus made amends but the damage was done in the form of one-star reviews on Google Play. Then to add to the woes, even after becoming more accessible to other headsets, the overall experience remains poor. Lower resolution and lacking in many options that rival apps offer, it seems Netflix VR is just a non-starter. So why am I focused on it? Well, the simple fact is, Netflix has two major reasons to not turn away. And what are their prey tell? Innovation and Gaming. Let’s cover them now.
Two Reasons Viewers May Want to Stick with Netflix VR
Innovation & Gaming
Netflix has a history of being ahead of the curve. They are solely responsible for how we consume media via streaming these days. Not usually a company to rest on their laurels, Netflix announced earlier this year that they were getting into the gaming cloud streaming service. Not on a huge scale like Sony, Microsoft, or Google but more to cater to a casual market. Gaming experiences more akin to mobile games were promised, and even though not very appealing to most, this could be the start of something huge. As mentioned, Netflix has such a huge established customer base that any venture in new territory helps bring things into the mainstream. Netflix’s willingness to jump into gaming proves that they are ever-evolving and adapt to their customer’s needs.
The most exciting part of all this is VR. Netflix quietly released a VR game on App Lab called Eden Unearthed. This VR title ties nicely into Netflix’s anime tv series of the same name. This effort to create VR content that supports their streaming media content is both clever and exciting. The game itself is short but extremely well-polished and intuitive to play. Getting to drive around exploring this strange future land inhabited solely by robots is joyous to play. The look and feel reminds me of a Studio Ghibli fairy tale with gorgeous visuals and overall, it’s a great source of fun and enjoyment. Also, and probably most importantly, the game is completely free to play, so it can be experienced by anyone who owns an Oculus headset.
The Future of Netflix VR
So, what next? Well, it still definitely feels like Netflix is only dipping their toes into the virtual reality world. Like most companies they chase the almighty dollar so if consumer’s really want Vr, they’ll oblige. After all, to fix the VR streaming experience all they really need to do is up the bandwidth and apply a few software updates to increase the resolution and improve the overall experience. Add to that, the potential for their ventures in gaming to become successful. If the average consumer shows interest, their gaming platform might grow and perhaps they’ll add more VR titles that we can play directly on the Netflix platform.
Just imagine almost 210 million customers who have access to exclusive Netflix VR titles just by having a Netflix subscription. No extra charges or hidden costs. Just quality VR titles at your fingertips. All you need is your headset and your subscription and you’re off to the races. Not only could this be a really cool way to game in the future, but it would almost certainly pull VR into the mainstream. So come on Netflix … we’re all ready and waiting.