GoPro’s Potential to Bring Virtual Reality Creation to the Masses
With innovative technology and high engagement rates, GoPro has the potential to bring tools for virtual reality creation to the broader consumer market.
GoPro well-positioned with quality camera manufacturing and high user engagement 
GoPro is a technology company focused on helping people capture and share their lives. They manufacture action cameras, suitable for extreme sports and travel. These HERO cameras are able to endure tough weather conditions and can be mounted to the helmets of hikers, climbers, bikers, and other such athletes to capture firsthand perspectives of their experiences. These cameras are known for their portability, durability, and high quality. To supplement their core business, GoPro also sells accessories and provides free video editing software called GoPro Studio along with an accompanying GoPro App. Additionally, they have developed a consumer drone called GoPro KARMA.
As GoPro has built out its manufacturing capabilities, it has also established itself as a content company, building an online presence with daily YouTube uploads and high engagement rates. GoPro users have shared their GoPro footage, and many have gone viral. These videos range from views of a GoPro scuba diver’s underwater explorations to the point-of-view of a GoPro strapped to a dog to a wedding video with a GoPro strapped to a wine bottle. With HERO camera prices ranging from $129-$499, GoPro provides an accessible creative outlet for its users .
Value creation results from GoPro’s technological aptitude with Omni launch 
In the virtual reality space, GoPro has launched its own recording device, the GoPro Omni, in 2016, seeking to equip individuals to create their own content. Priced at $4,999, the Omni is a six camera rig that stitches together videos in a spherical experience that can be viewed on a smartphone or a virtual reality headset [4,5]. Given their HERO cameras, GoPro is well-positioned to capture creative, experimental users and engage with them to develop fresh, innovative content, showcasing the powers of virtual reality. However, despite the technology, the Omni has had limited traction in the market.
GoPro has sought to go after other higher-end VR devices as well. In 2015, GoPro formed a partnership with Alphabet’s Google to create Jump, which is a platform for VR video . They also worked together to develop the Odyssey, a sixteen-camera retailing at $15,000, which can upload 360 videos onto YouTube. At a higher price-tag than the Omni, the Odyssey focuses more on high-end professional users, where the device automatically syncs the camera footage and stitches it all together seamlessly. After many delays, the Odyssey shipped in mid-2016 but limited its user base with a selective pilot program, including VR production companies WEVR, WRSE, and Specular Theory [7,8].
Value capture for GoPro’s based on set per-device price 
By pricing the Omni at $4,999, GoPro has sought to serve a middle-to-upper-end market, sitting between lower-end standalone spherical camera competitors priced in the ~$300-500s to the high-end Odyssey users. Despite the Omni launch, the GoPro quarterly results had a net income loss of $85 million. By sitting between the two, GoPro has failed to identify a significant amount of demand amongst this user base. While GoPro has attempted to reinvigorate itself with new drone technology, its moves into VR appears to continue to lag.
While GoPro continues to position itself in the high-end VR market, I think it would serve GoPro well to enter the broader consumer market as they have done with their HERO line, targeting their current base on users who can afford a lower price tag. I believe GoPro’s strengths moving forward are putting its technology into the hands of its consumers and having them develop content, spurring virality and bringing virtual reality to the massages. While I do think it is wise for GoPro to start their Odyssey launch with select pilot users so that they can showcase the capabilities for virtual reality, I imagine they are simultaneously working on finding an easy-to-use, accessible virtual reality camera device so that they can leverage their strengths in content development in the GoPro community.
GoPro is known for its creative users, who have used the HERO camera to document incredible, memorable experiences. To bring such footage to life via virtual reality and make it accessible would set GoPro apart. There are opportunities for GoPro to have network effects, where they create a GoPro virtual reality user platform to create and share content. The company already has capabilities in manufacturing and software (video editing and app), suggesting that with time, GoPro could position themselves well in this inevitable shift to virtual reality experiences. Their current user base of adventurous creatives gives them ample opportunity to create virality and accelerate consumer adoption, assuming the technology is able to exceed consumer expectations.
The biggest risk in my mind is for GoPro to be shut out by the larger players (like Alphabet’s Google, who they partnered with on the Odyssey and Jump). Given GoPro is both hardware and software, they must ensure their hardware business does not become commoditized and continues to be integral. While GoPro is not doing financially well at the moment, I think this company has a solid shot at shaping the virtual reality market.
Student comments on GoPro’s Potential to Bring Virtual Reality Creation to the Masses
Great post! I would love to see GoPro come downmarket as you suggest to make their tools more accessible to the everyday consumer. I worry that they are moving too slowly here, especially with some of the newer products to hit the market that could capture too much early market share for GoPro to make up ground (e.g., Kodak Pix Pro VR Camera at $449 and the LG 360 Cam at a <$200 price point).
Great post Alice!
It makes me wonder about the future of GoPro as a whole, since it seems like the ordinary camera segment will eventually be eroded as the quality if smartphone-based camera reaches higher and higher levels. If GoPro wants to continue to sell hardware, it seems like it will need a differentiator in order to survive, and selling cameras that can capture VR content seems like a great path forward.
Great post Alice!
I agree with Libby and your comments above – I think it would be beneficial for GoPro to produce a VR camera with a more attractive price point for the consumer. As we read in the industry note – one of the biggest hurdles for VR is consumer adoption. I believe production of a more affordable VR camera would encourage more consumers to create content creating more incentive for others to purchase HMD’s capable of viewing such content. GoPro is facing a bit of a chicken and egg problem here and I believe they have the power/influence to get the content production side of the equation developing to encourage more consumers to engage in VR altogether.
Great post Alice!
I am wondering whether GoPro’s brand identity is hindering its entry to the VR mass market. As Alice mentioned, GoPro is “focused on helping people capture and share their lives. They manufacture action cameras, suitable for extreme sports and travel”. In order to fulfill this mission, its cameras are portable, shock and water resistant, and easy to mount and operate.
When we look at VR, it has many potential uses, and many companies are trying early applications to find product-market fit. Typically, the VR applications involve mounting multiple cameras on a stationary stand. Strapping eight cameras onto an athlete or stuntman to reproduce that VR experience is not a realistic early-stage application for now. To go after the mass market, GoPro need to rethink its brand and the applications its going after. Products optimized for the old usage scenarios will not help it win in the new ones.