Say Hello To Virtual Reality


2016 is the year that virtual reality has finally started to hit the mainstream.

Goldman Sachs predicts that the market will balloon to $110 billion by 2020, while tech advisor firm Digi-Capital bumps that estimate up to $120 billion (with $10 billion coming from gaming alone).

While a chunk of this revenue will come from high-end, expensive VR hardware, there is a sizeable market for low-end mobile VR solutions that work directly with a user’s smartphone or mobile device (think Google’s Cardboard VR viewer or Samsung’s Gear VR). Over 5 million mobile users have already started using these lower-end VR solutions, and users in markets from the US to China are dipping their toes into VR experiences.

This has opened up huge opportunities for mobile publishers to adapt their mobile apps and mobile content to fit the new mobile VR headsets in order to capture and engage a lucrative user base. But, entering this market won’t be easy.

First, the size of the mobile VR market today is still relatively small, and many casual users are unfamiliar with the new technology. Secondly, casual users usually interact with their mobile devices in environments where they can’t move around very well, like on trains or on their couches, which is not suited to fully immersive VR games that require both head and body movement. Lastly, there is a big issue with power consumption for mobile VR games. Even with adjustments, VR experiences still take a lot of processing power and will drain the user’s battery quickly.

Though these challenges may seem daunting, publishers should know that mobile VR isn’t as complex and involved as it may seem. With some design adjustments and creative game flows, publishers can create a great VR experience even for the most casual users. And, because tools like Google Cardboard and the Gear VR are so inexpensive, publishers will be able to test their VR apps without needing to spend a lot of money on dozens of expensive VR headsets.

Many development tools like Unity have already unveiled VR programming environments to limit the need to work directly within the operating system’s native code, which can be complicated for VR. Additionally, companies like Google are making it possible for a hybrid VR environment using 360-degree video and images through their Cardboard SDK and VR View.

For publishers with the resources (and the passion!) to develop VR apps, now is the time to start designing in order to get in on the ground floor. There are enough early adopters to give your game a decent audience, and companies (like StartApp!) are starting to enter the market to help you earn some revenue.

If you are wary about VR, now is the time to start researching and looking at what other companies are doing with their VR experiences. You may find the inspiration you need to adapt your apps to VR, or you may find that your apps aren’t the best fit.

And remember: virtual reality isn’t just for games! Social networks, messaging apps, video apps, and others all are a great fit for VR and can help differentiate you from other VR publishers.

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