Build vs. Buy: The Pros and Cons for VR Software

March 16 2020


American software engineer Watts Humphrey said more than two decades ago that “every business is a software business.” A simple sentence that neatly predicted the digital transformation all businesses would go through in the aughts and the 2010s. Nowadays, every business worth its salt relies heavily on software. It introduced everyone to the dilemma that accompanies every major software decision: build vs buy.

Do we build out the software we need or do we buy the best equivalent from a vendor? This article will go over the pros and cons of each approach, but will do so in the context of virtual reality. Companies are increasingly adopting VR as a way to efficiently train their employees or streamline their operations. The build vs buy decision for VR software differs in subtle but important ways from the build vs buy decision for other types of software.

Why Build VR Software?

The biggest argument in favor of building VR software is control. When you build anything from scratch, you can build it exactly as you want. Usually, this means you’ll end up with a smaller and simpler solution that only has the features relevant for your use case and context. For example, a VR fire training simulation that’s modeled after your headquarters specifically. 

Having full control over your software means that it’ll be easier to make changes down the road. Asking a vendor to introduce new features to their product is hardly ever an easy or fast process. But when you’ve created the software, all you need to do is talk to your developers about what you want to change.

Additionally, your developers will have built the software with integration in mind. You won’t need to pay extra to integrate someone else’s software into your existing tech stack (if that’s at all possible). This perk is particularly interesting if you have already existing 3D assets, such as CAD files. You can build your VR software so it pulls from your CAD file database to create VR models.

Finally, developing VR software in-house can give you a competitive edge, because you’re the only one using it. Think of Tesla. They’re notorious for building everything themselves. As a result, car manufacturers are struggling to compete with Tesla because they rely heavily on vendors whereas Tesla does not.

Why Buy VR Software?

While the above arguments might make a compelling debate for building VR software from scratch, they come with a heavy asterisk. Building your own solution will almost always cost you much more money, which is particularly true for VR software. 

Not only will you need developers and designers who are intimately familiar with modeling VR assets and building VR environments, but you’ll need employees who can implement that software too. Do you have these people in your workforce right now? If not, it’ll take a few weeks, if not months, before you can even start building a solution.

Virtual reality is potent but it’s also complex. A vendor who is focused on VR can provide you with great software, but also with their expertise to implement that software correctly and answer all your questions along the way. Additionally, their solution is already there. Regardless of how many changes you want a vendor to make to their software, you’ll have it installed and set up much sooner than if you’d decided to build something from scratch.

Vendors also understand that you want to integrate VR software into your existing tech stack. They often have APIs that help with such integrations. For example, the Circuit Stream Platform integrates with your LMS through our SDK and API — even if you have several APIs that are set up in slightly different ways.

In general, if there’s a solution that does 80% of what you’re looking for, it’s better to buy than it is to build. This is particularly true if it’s your first time investing in VR. You’ll benefit significantly from the expertise of vendors who have been implementing VR software for companies of all sorts and sizes. 

Interested to know how VR can transform training and cut costs? Check out our INVISTA case study.

Download the Case Study


Melanie Leon

Content Marketer

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