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Samsung Gear VR store finally offers paid apps

Newer games and apps are arriving for Samsung Gear VR, and they're no longer all free. Which is a good thing, in theory. We talk with Oculus' head of mobile Max Cohen in Barcelona.

Samsung Gear VR is getting more high-quality paid apps, starting now. Sarah Tew / CNET

BARCELONA -- You may not have noticed it yet, but the Oculus VR Store for Samsung Gear VR finally offers up games and apps you can pay for. Until Monday, everything was free.

While there are some great free Gear VR (virtual reality) games and apps out there already, the lack of paid content previously meant a lot more app previews or elaborate demos than there should have been, as opposed to big, exciting, full-fledged games and apps.

Paid content will be available in the US first, with other regions to follow. Oculus head of mobile Max Cohen, who I met with here at Mobile World Congress to discuss Gear VR, said this needed to happen in order to take games and apps a step forward. But these prices will be "premium payments," according to Cohen, versus freemium-style in-app purchases. Prices may be a bit higher, but the games will hopefully reflect that.

For videos, no paid structure has been decided yet. But Oculus is getting new video content out to the Gear VR. Starting this week, Oculus Cinema will begin offering 6 to 8 short films to stream for free instead of just movie trailers. These short films will be cycled out over time, much like Samsung's Milk VR. It would make sense for a streaming movie subscription service to make its way over to Oculus, but there aren't any plans for that yet.

I looked at a few of the new films on the newest Samsung Galaxy S6 version of the Samsung Gear VR , as well as some 360-degree stereoscopic 3D photos created by Otoy Octane Render, which looked like still-lifes of a 3D reality. These will also hitting the Oculus VR store.

The new Gear VR feels a bit better as far as pixel density, but is a similar headset overall (focal range in the final version should be as good as the first Gear VR, and even a bit better, according to Cohen). It's about getting the experience out to more people, which is still a big mission in something as personally experienced as VR.

According to Cohen, these VR headsets are still very much in their early days. The challenge of the industry: "getting it on people's faces," he says of the technology. He's right. He pointed out that for the average Gear VR headset, "each one has probably been on 10-plus people," referring to the pass-and-try nature of the novelty of current VR. But that also means people still need to be shown how good it is.

Will people pay for virtual content? There aren't many paid storefronts for VR games yet, and Oculus is just beginning to try this in mobile. We'll see what comes next.