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Virtual Reality has emerged as a buzz phrase in the games industry lately with many new headsets announced and many developers looking to take advantage it.
If you’re thinking of getting on board, here are eight tips on making the most of the opportunity.
- Getting in early is key
I’ve heard it said a few times that the big name publishers and developers won’t get in on virtual reality until the potential is proven. So, being early to the market with a game that inspires and gets people talking is going to make it much easier to have a success on your hands than when the market is suddenly saturated and clawing at the marketing budgets of the big players.
Compare how hard it is to get noticed on the mobile app stores today compared to five years ago when free-to-play was in its infancy. This is a similar time for VR.
- VR won’t be for everyone
We don’t know how big VR is going to become, and many are sceptical. Chances are it’s not going to be the same size as the mobile/tablet or console market. Generally, needing to buy expensive, specialist equipment will make this something which will attract core gamers rather than casual gamers. A certain game or software product may inspire it becoming a must-have item (like Wii Sports did for the Wii console), but with so many different types of equipment available it is more likely to alienate the non-tech savvy.
Given Facebook’s ownership of Oculus Rift, we may see VR becoming more of a part of our everyday lives further down the line.
- Get your head around the different offerings
As mentioned above, there are already many different devices available or planned for the virtual reality market. At the recent GDC conference a number of devices and peripheral controllers were announced.
The biggest player at the moment is Oculus Rift, which has been on the market for a while. At the more affordable end of the market is Google Cardboard, which turns your mobile device into a VR headset for use with a variety of apps and games.
Other devices include the Vuzix IWare and Razer’s OSVR headset. Peripheral controllers are also being developed to use with headsets when navigating and interacting with games.
- Go for niche, not mass market
Most developers jumping onto the VR bandwagon will likely try to emulate successful game genres which have already been proven, or which offer an obvious conversion to VR. This will be where the market first becomes difficult to make a mark in.
But if you can think of a niche market or genre in which to create a VR game you will stand out from the crowd much easier, and even encourage that niche to be early adopters and evangelists of VR and your product. Could you bring VR to archery, or field hockey, or flight simulation?
- Find publishers who can help
Publishers and investors will be looking at the potential of VR just as greedily as developers, and may have cash already earmarked for bringing products to market quickly. Therefore, if you have an idea or a prototype, start demonstrating it to the people that make the decisions as soon as possible and it could help you get your idea on the virtual shelves and marketed to consumers much sooner than your competitors.
- Sickness probably won’t go away
The problem of motion sickness with VR has been there since the start, and despite hoping it will pass over time, it simply won’t. Much has been written about why it happens and how to overcome it, so game designers need to take heed from day one and plan their products in ways which minimise the likelihood of it happening to your users. No one likes feeling sick, and if your game makes them feel sick they won’t enjoy it or tell their friends to buy it.
- The money might not be in games
The potential for VR is huge. I think we naturally consider its fit is only for games, but there’s a plethora of other applications just waiting to be created, and most could probably be even more lucrative!
Give yourself the challenge today to think up an application of virtual reality in the following areas: healthcare professionals, warehousing and logistics, engineering, sports, home TV. Could just one of your ideas revolutionise an industry and pave a new path for VR which will become standard in the way people do their jobs? Imagine the value of that license, or the lifetime royalties it could bring in. If you have an idea, it's time to start talking to these people to discuss the potential.
- Consider Augmented Reality as a first step
Another phrase being mentioned a lot in games at the moment is augmented reality. Like VR, it has been around for a while, and had some success. But it could be on the verge of significant growth. Although it is not the same as VR, it follows similar principles in terms of designing a game, or product, which interacts with or manipulates the world around the user through an electronic device. Mobile phones and tablets are perfect for this, and developing the idea further could be combined with Google Cardboard, for example, to create a virtual reality/augmented reality app.
At Hippo Entertainment we have been developing an augmented reality ghost game (called Paranormal Activity Device, or PAD) after giving ourselves the challenge to create something scary. It turns the world around you into your own creepy horror movie, and already we are seeing the potential of turning it into a VR game after demonstrating it with Google Cardboard.