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How to Create a Successful VR Game: Essential Steps


Roman Ponomarenko / May 3, 2018

Despite a common notion that game development is a complex process of convoluted steps, its barrier to entry has seen a drastic change towards becoming much more accessible to people outside of this industry.

Right now it can still be tangible for a fairly casual audience to develop their own VR product without possessing any technical knowledge, however, understanding the basic business processes and ability to analyze how the VR game predecessors have performed is a must for a future project to become successful.

As we take a look at the retrospective, VR market experienced a large boost in sheer numbers and now tens of millions of users have their hands on these immersive gadgets and it hasn’t reached its zenith yet. This now opens the gates for a multitude of independent developers to try their best at crafting their own successful franchises from the scratch.

According to Grand View Research, the VR market is estimated to reach $45.09B by 2025 thanks to such moguls as Microsoft, Facebook, Sony, Google, and Nintendo heavily investing in this area. Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, is even more optimistic and believe that the industry will grow up to $110B by 2020. Either way, the future of VR is bright and seems like a logical step in the gaming evolution since we knew it from the very first 8-bit consoles.

Steps/Audiences

How to create a successful game - audience research

But what are the necessary steps and valuable assets for anyone who wants to find out how to create a VR game that will become both popular and lucrative for its publishers? Let’s peek this out!

First of all, you need to make sure that a good marketing analysis will be in place. Despite being a relatively new sphere, VR gaming market has already received a number of “killer-apps”, such as Minecraft VR and Star Trek Crew that allow to inherit their way to success and avoid many of the obstacles that could impede the game’s road to success. The overall concept relevance will also play a big role in its future success because even a brilliant idea that was highly demanded just a couple of years ago, could now be out of date to what the end users expect now. The gaming community is a special beast whose preferences may greatly vary depending on what’s currently trending among the content creators and streamers, as we have seen the games like PUBG exploding in a month thanks to being played by a small number of popular twitch channels.

Knowing the target audience is always a key factor whether or not the demand will be substantial, and in our case, it is often defined by which genre the game is going to adhere. As of right now, VR market is most often represented by exploration-based games, especially in the space realm. Various simulation-based training are also among the most common apps to meet in a VR arsenal.

However, picking up a proper genre for the VR game you want to create is distinctive from the regular app development practice. First and foremost, VR should capitalize on its own strength: being able to create an immersive environment that common games fail to deliver. The games that rely on exploration can easily adopt VR concept and further excel when developing the main character from the first-person perspective, therefore, the games like Resident Evil VR and Doom VR could become a success by using this formula. Even such games as Kingdom Come: Deliverance or any Assassin’s Creed part could see a great VR port for themselves and attract big masses of the audience.

To put a large emphasis on eliciting the player’s emotions like excitement, fear, or happiness is a key factor to showcase VR’s main advantages over the standard gaming experience. To mitigate the lack of keyboard/mouse convenient controls, such simplistic yet intriguing gaming elements as interactive puzzles or inclusion of brief game-events is a nice solution to enable the feeling of presence by only relying on simple gestures from the players.

Alpha and Beta Testing

How to create a successful game - testing

Nowadays beta-testing stage is not the same it used to be years ago. If previously it was done for the purpose of polishing the game, now it is mostly focused towards attracting the audience and giving them the sense of experiencing something forbidden and trying out an exclusive product before the general public is even aware of it. Many VR game developers have successfully abused this system by extending the alpha or beta testing periods for years, demanding the money for an early-access game version that kept them irresponsible for the products’ quality. Despite some of the players becoming more cautious about spending money on such risky ventures, early-access type of distribution is still a great marketing tool for the developers to become recognizable among the gaming community and receive an additional source of funding.

As the games have seen a sizeable shift in how they keep their players engaged, some of the gambling mechanics have firmly asserted themselves as the go-to option. Whether you think the progression should be based on merit or tied to the luck factor, it is really important to make a lot of calculations to find the middle ground that would make receiving new items or upgrades enjoyable for the vast majority of the player base. In this case, alpha and beta stages are the perfect battlegrounds for monetization, progression, and gameplay concepts to be tested and polished to avoid further players’ disaffection.

Key Events

How to create a successful game - events

Regardless of how big the publisher is, it is vital to find a solid platform that would provide enough time for the game to be presented and highlighted for the wide audience. Nowadays people who visit the gaming expos are mostly journalists and media-influencers who serve as the major tool to further convey their opinions about the games they could get their hands on. With the wild growth in popularity of twitch and youtube, their audience is now the primary marketing objective as their size severely outnumbers the number of people who can physically visit the stage, easily grasping up to 500.000 concurrent viewers combined, let alone the number of total views.

For that matter, such events as E3, Gamescom, and Paris Games Week are the finest solution for advertising the games and exposing their key features right from the stage. Such ventures, however, can be costly, hereby, large yet welcoming towards independent developers events like Penny Arcade Expo can secure a decent publicity level even if the game doesn’t have the AAA-magnitude ambitions.

Post-Publishing Advertising

How to create a successful game - advertising

Even despite the most successful games usually sell the biggest amount of copies in the first few weeks, there are a plenty of examples when good press/players’ response paid off in a big way. R6 Siege saw no success during the launch period mostly due to first-person shooter market being flooded with already established franchises like Counter-Strike, Battlefield, and Call of Duty but the constant efforts from Ubisoft to polish the gameplay and add tons of free content was a great choice in a long run. Now the game can be boastful of its huge player base of constant 100.000+ concurrent players and a confident 4th spot on the Steam’s list.

Many other games, especially form CIS region, opted to go another way. For example, such games as World of Tanks and Escape from Tarkov used an aggressive marketing strategy to promote itself by making constant events for press and attracting content creators years before the game was supposed to launch and after the release date either.

Another different way to promote the game is a cybersport sphere, however, the range for is niche is fairly narrow and is mostly represented by AAA-projects who can afford to invest a sizeable amount of money and wait for the revenue in a long run.

Hardware

How to create a successful game - hardware

Choosing a platform that will utilize your game may seem as a restriction at its core, however, it does not only impede the player base growth but can also be helpful in terms of free promotion by the hardware manufacturers. The development method may greatly vary depending on which hardware will be chosen due to many performance differences each platform has to offer and may require different teams of developers, let alone a stack of technologies used.

With Microsoft withdrawing from the very start of the VR competition, the battle usually concludes between Playstation and PC platforms who will be the one to attract the publishers.

PSN from Sony can be boastful of more than 70M users who have purchased the console and now are the potential audience for the VR environment. This has already resulted in more than 2M of PS VR headsets and the numbers are projected to steadily grow from now on. First and foremost, this area has to offer a very valuable perk of affordable VR, only demanding about 500$ for the hardware expenses in total. Moreover, even though passing through publishment criteria for entering the PS Store can seem too trivial and result in low-quality games stepping into the market, this opens the gates for the smaller companies to publish breakthrough games and earn money.

PC platform is now a very different beast that currently goes through a massive modification phase. Despite gadgets like HTC Vive costing around 800$ and demanding a powerful PC for another 1000$, we are set to see such standalone headsets as Oculus Go for 200$ that will not demand any side-hardware whatsoever.

Admittedly, the major reason behind PC-based VR gadgets severely cutting the price tag is the rise of standalone mobile VR gadgets. According to Statista, mobile VR area is currently the biggest community in a whole market and can be boastful of a multitude of fairly cheap gadgets like Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream View that can match the hardware potential of their desktop counterparts.

Game Engine

How to create a successful game - engine

Another thing to keep in mind is the engine choice and how good it matches the provided hardware for a future game. Over the recent decade, we haven’t seen too many engines stepping up to the gaming market, therefore Unity and Unreal still prevail over their competitors when a smooth-running and well-looking development tool is required. Despite having gorgeous and powerful Frostbite and CryEngine, these two have severe limitations in terms of the copyright usage and hardware compatibility, thus can’t be considered as a go-to option for the regular independent developers, especially in a more casual VR environment.

Unity

Thanks to its relatively simplistic nature, this game engine has asserted itself as a perfect solution for mobile-based games(34% of them have been made using Unity) when hardware restrictions kick in the most, despite being compatible with 21 different platforms. A big and active community of experienced developers for this engine can help when grasping its newest features and negate the lack of access to the source code. A great asset store and free basic version of the engine are especially good for the smaller studios who may lack in the time/money department.

Unreal

Made by Epic Games, Unreal has steadily pursued its goal to become a primary option for a multitude of PC/console projects. Given its more comprehensive coding part, this engine has aimed itself towards the biggest development crews who strive to create superior graphics and maintain a solid performance level. Unlike Unity’s subscription model with a fixed price, this engine only charges 5% fee from the games’ revenue(when they reach more than 50k turnover number) which is a clear indicator that it’s focused towards professional studios who have the possibilities to amend Unreal’s source code, available for the developers team. The documentation and tutorials lack for the developers’ side is another reason why this engine should rather be adopted by the experienced team, especially when creating a game in FPS genre, which Unreal suits the most.

Find the Right Development Partner

With the hands-on experience in AR/VR development for a number of industries, Program-Ace possesses an expert team of Unity and Unreal engine developers capable of making high-quality games for PC, console, and mobile platforms.

VR game development is our strong in-house expertise that allows for creating the best gaming immersion and maintain high performance level, while keeping it simplistic and tangible for the target audience.



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