How to succeed in the VR market and hold a top position

Tommy Palm, one of the key minds behind Candy Crush Saga, shares his experience with the Bait, a thrilling VR game which became expectedly popular among gamers, and emphasizes that retention is a clue for VR studios.

                                                       

VR isn’t a new market in IT industry, but it still not as ready as a mobile one. That's why VR attracts so much attention and motivates investors to concentrate around VR startups. There’re enough successful projects which may boast the attained result and give valuable advice for those who strive to cultivate skills in VR.

Resolution Games’ Bait, the free-to-play fishing game for Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream, has rapidly gained popularity and was among first ones which were launched successfully onto the VR market. Despite the high result, Tommy Palm, co-founder and CEO at Resolution Games, says in his interview to GamesIndustry.biz  that they aren’t going to follow the same way as with the Bait. 

Palm starts his story with the very beginning when he joined Resolution Games. The first intricacies evolved when they’d understood they had the tight deadline for creating picturesque and catching content for Gear VR. The team, which entered the project when it had kicked off, did their best to achieve the outcome they are proud of now.

Comparing VR with a mobile game, Palm acknowledges that there're enough similarities. As in every business, you can't start without working out strategies to boost your position in the market. The development process always involves cooperation, which sometimes may cause difficulty. In the case with the Bait, the team had to take a big ongoing project in VR where all parts were interdependent. Backing his words with 20 years in game development, Palm ensures the people stepping into game industry that the smaller the game is, the much easier it is to do that, particularly when you need to change something. So try to start small and avoid overscoping. 

Luckily, the Bait hit the market and mostly owing to hard work and professionalism of the team. But the next project called Wonderglade, a virtual theme park with a collection of minigames, was absolutely different. Taking into account takeaways from the Bait, the team decided to concentrate on smaller games and compose them in one virtual world. That strategy gave them an incontestable advantage as they were able to make smaller and quicker interactions, share valuable experience in VR. It made everything go faster.  

Another opportunity to make a breakthrough came from the evolution of the hardware. For instance, players who formally used a button on the side of the headphones for casting a rod in the Bain couldn’t suppress their joy using a three-degrees-of-freedom controller appeared on Daydream (the same time Samsung released a similar controller for Gear VR). It allowed companies to make headway and cast a light upon how crucial developments in the interface were for mobile VR. 

Palm finds that the constant demand in upgrading the hardware is a real motivation for him to help the progress forward.

                                                        

Resolution knows how to get their hooks into the VR market

Talking about the sustainability of VR game development business, Palm stresses that as any game development business, it requires remaining within a budget. The point is to keep within the bounds, in particular, between the need to take more team members on board for performing topnotch products and the same time the ability not to expend costs. 
According to Palm’s words, the most regretful thing about VR is a slow progress in hardware development. Unless the developers are tied by the imperfection of such an important means of transmitting VR worlds to gamers as hardware, we can’t talk about viable consumer business. The only possible way to survive is to release great products at affordable costs, attracting more attention and venture capital to this innovative and promising technology.

Recently claimed achievements in VR headphones production have fallen out of Palm’s expectations as they are still massive and limited while mobile industry keeps taking benefit from smarter interfaces, better battery and less heat output. But he still believes that these two vectors will meet and everyone will benefit from it.

One more goal to achieve is to burn durable interest to the VR game, motivate people to try it. This task is as difficult as it’s always been. The way from putting on headphones to making a purchase inside the game isn’t a beaten track yet. 

The above-mentioned fact makes VR technology developers focus not only on quality but also on retention. High retention rate indicates that investments are likely to be recouped.
Great games have great retention regardless of their business models, though, as Palm says. It was particularly uneasy to stand the existing obstacles with a free-to-play game in the early days of mobile VR, but they succeeded.

Concerning the retention rate for the Bait, he hurries to clarify that VR games are assessed by other standards of success.  
VR games are launched on different platforms. Players can’t play VR games anytime as they do on their mobile devices. So the retention numbers on mobile tend to be much higher. VR is comparable here with a console game. Even though the long-term retention is good, the first-day retention is never going to be as high as a mobile device game can reach.
The valuable piece of advice from Palm is to develop towards social VR as it is becoming prosperous and trendy.  That can be quite complicated now because of the difference in platforms and the small number of audiences around VR, but Palm is convinced it's the way forward.  

                                                       

KapKan Games supports his point of view and finds this niche extremely lucrative as there's no bigger joy than the joy you are able to share with people who matter to you.