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Some Said It Couldn't Be Done, But Free VR Porn Is On Its Way

Pornhub is partnering with BaDoinkVR on a new channel offering free VR porn.

Some Said It Couldn't Be Done, But Free VR Porn Is On Its Way

If you were worried that VR porn would never be free, fear no more: Pornhub has your back.

Today, Pornhub, one of the largest porn sites in the world, said it has teamed up with BaDoinkVR (NSFW), a producer of virtual reality porn, to offer no-cost adult VR.

Starting immediately, Pornhub will feature a new VR category (NSFW) where users can peruse a range of free BaDoink-produced, 360-degree porn. The videos will be optimized for Android and iOS devices, and will be playable on most VR headsets, including the Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and Google Cardboard.

Pornhub said it is giving away 10,000 VR headsets to celebrate the launch.

Pornhub's promotional video announcing free VR porn

As with other platforms, porn is very likely to be a big driver of usage for virtual reality. A recent study predicted that porn will eventually be the third-largest category of VR content, after gaming and football. One major producer of adult VR content believes that more than 10 million people will be using VR porn at least once a month by the end of this year.

Still, it’s notable that Pornhub is now offering free VR adult content given that another leader in the space, Naughty America (NSFW), recently said that, as a medium, virtual reality didn’t easily support giving away porn.

Sites like Pornhub and others have long offered copious amounts of free porn, and have been able to do so because the videos are wrapped in ads—something that’s hard to do in VR environments where users’ entire field of view is filled with the content of whatever video they’re watching.

Ian Paul, Naughty America’s chief information officer, told Fast Company in January that as a result, most VR porn would be offered via a subscription model, such as his company’s $24.95 a month plan.

For its part, Pornhub believes it can monetize its VR porn through advertising—just not ads displayed during the playback of the videos. Corey Price, the company's vice president, explained that it has integrated VR functionality into the Android version of the Chrome browser as well as into its desktop player, alleviating the need for a stand-alone VR player and ensuring that users are shown ads while browsing for content. At the same time, Price told Fast Company, Pornhub has partnership deals with "hundreds of content creators with whom we share subscription revenue achieved through their visibility on Pornhub."

BaDoinkVR is the exclusive partner for Pornhub's VR launch, and is providing the initial round of videos for the site.

In a case of rising tides floating all boats, Naughty America said it is happy about Pornhub's announcement.

"We are proud to see that the industry is embracing VR as predicted," Naughty America's Paul said yesterday. "This deal will drive more people to buy VR headsets, and that's good for our company and the industry overall."

However, it doesn't appear Naughty America is prepared to follow Pornhub's and BaDoinkVR's move. "As an industry leader," Paul said, "Naughty America will continue offering exclusive premium content to our fans."

Still, some in the industry are intrigued by Pornhub’s partnership with BaDoink.

"Since the advent of the Internet, free porn has been used to lure viewers, a percentage of which opt to pay," said Alec Helmy, the president and publisher of Xbiz, one of the largest adult-industry trade publications. "What makes this rather interesting is Pornhub's strategic move to not only profit from rising interest in VR porn by promoting other companies’ offerings, but to also gauge the market for their own VR pursuits."

Not surprising there's VR porn

That there’s VR porn at all might surprise some people given that industry big shots like Oculus founder Palmer Luckey have said there’s zero chance of adult content being available through official distribution channels like the Oculus Store—which serves both the Rift and the Gear VR.

The history of technology, however, proves that porn always finds a way. And already, there is no shortage of adult VR content on a range of sites. Until now, though, it’s all come with a fee.

People have been willing to pay that fee, largely because the promise of VR porn is adult content in which the viewer is placed in a point-of-view position where up-close-and-personal is an understatement.

A promotional video BaDoink released last September gave a hint of that promise, showing numerous people trying out the company’s VR porn on the streets of San Francisco. Assuming those in the video were for real, their reactions showed that the content is a big leap forward.

BaDoink's promotional video

None of the major VR hardware companies—Oculus, Sony, Samsung, and HTC—are happy to admit it, but the naked truth is that there’s almost no way that they can keep porn off their platforms. Even Oculus’s Luckey said his company has no plans to police the un-curated corners of the Oculus universe.

"The official Oculus store is curated, and it’s not going to have adult content on it, but the Rift is open," Luckey told Fast Company in September. "Anyone can make an application for the Rift. There’s no vetting process, and that’s even been true of our development philosophy around our development kits. Our dev kits were not like Xbox or PlayStation . . . where they vet people under NDAs and send them hardware. We allow anyone to order a dev kit, download our SDK for free, and build whatever they want for it."

Naughty America, one of the world’s largest makers and distributors of porn, has done research suggesting that by the end of this year, at least 10 million, and possibly as many as 20 million, people will be watching VR porn at least once a month. That content may come from many providers, and one would assume Pornhub will certainly be a big player now that it’s offering free VR porn.

Big market

The market is almost certainly there. Analysts predict that the virtual reality industry will be worth $30 billion a year by 2020, with content alone being worth $5 billion a year by 2025. Pornhub cited a Piper Jaffray survey as suggesting that VR porn itself will generate a billion dollars a year by 2025, making it the third-largest VR segment behind games and NFL-related content.

A report on the VR industry released in January backs this up. According to the survey from digital insights firm SimilarWeb, porn will be one of the most important VR trends in 2016. In fact, the survey concluded, porn may even help determine which VR platforms are the most successful.

Photo: Flickr user ETC-USC

"As with other new technologies porn has often influenced and been a driving factor in tech and the same can be true of VR," the survey reported. "In this case, Facebook’s Oculus emerges as the big winner."

The firm’s data showed that between January and November of last year, Oculus got 16.7% of its traffic from referrals, and of that, 2.7% was from VR porn sites. "This accounted for about 126,000 total referral visits from porn sites," SimilarWeb wrote. "The same trend appears with Oculus competitor Homido. Of Homido’s 27.6% referral traffic, 51.4% came from virtualrealporn.com alone, accounting for about 82,000 visits."

All of this meant big growth for the VR porn industry. The report said that the top 10 VR porn sites enjoyed a 202% growth in traffic between January and November of last year.

VR companies quietly helping out

At the same time, while the VR headset makers publicly say they want nothing to do with porn, the story behind the scenes may well be something else altogether.

At a South by Southwest panel on VR porn last week, Ela Darling, the cofounder of VRTubexxx (NSFW), said her company has received "subtle but strong support from those" companies. For example, Darling said, HTC—maker of the Vive—"sent us a dev kit, and they know exactly what we are."

Added Darling, the VR hardware makers "silently support us. Absolutely never publicly, but they know they need us to succeed."

Photo: Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns

That jibes with the interactions Naughty America has had with the big VR companies.

While Naughty America’s Paul told Fast Company in January that the major VR manufacturers don’t want it to be known that they're working with porn producers, there is always a bit of back-channel back and forth going on that benefits both sides.

"We have a dialogue with all the players," Paul claimed. "None want to be named, but they encourage us and give us feedback. And we’ve been able to share feedback with them."

Paul also noted that some of the VR hardware makers have actually offered Naughty America some help.

"It’s mainly encouragement and pointing us to other vendors that can help us," he said. "For example, workflow for editing VR is time-consuming, and it’s important for us as we ramp up volume to be [efficient]. They know other vendors, and point us in the right direction. That’s very helpful."

Will Virtual Reality Go Mainstream?

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