Headset Makers Merge and Fibrum on Succeeding With Mobile VR

Insights & Best Practices

July 19, 2016


min read

Many mobile game developers still have questions about VR, from what platform to develop for to which store to sell in. So far, all they know is mobile VR is heating up.But who should they turn to for answers in a space that is still in its infancy? The hardware creators are a great place to start. Big names like Oculus and Samsung Gear have a unique vantage point into the burgeoning VR industry, as they're literally building the environment that these games will operate within.[caption id="attachment_20406" align="alignleft" width="3000"]

Merge VR headset mobile game

Image via Merge[/caption]

Make 'em easy and often

While the mobile game industry, generally, is trending toward fewer, more sophisticated games, that is not the case for VR. In fact, since the technology is in its early stages, the strategy is quite the opposite."Right now it's a huge playground for developers," says Franklin Lyons, the CEO of Merge, which makes an affordable VR headset now sold at Target and Best Buy. If he were a developer? "I wouldn't be focusing for 12 months on one app,? he says. ?I'd focus on 12 apps, one per month. Fortunately right now there is a shortage of content, so it's a developer's market."

Fortunately right now there is a shortage of content, so it's a developer's market.

As a developer and headset creator, Moscow-based Fibrum has tried dozens of ideas. The company's first-ever VR game, Roller Coaster (which it created in 2014), still performs best. The title is responsible for three million of the company's seven million total downloads to-date. Roller Coaster is simple, and that's what makes it successful.Fibrum's business development director, Daniil Shcherbakov, says that the company sees a blue ocean for extremely simple games in which all players need to do is pull a lever, for example. "I don't advise that you make it more complicated," he says.Control schemes are a particular sticking point for VR games, as headsets offer just a single button. In the short term, it looks like consumers won't have any choices at all for detached controllers. Merge seems to be a leader, with its own controller that works on both iOS and Android, but they don't have immediate plans to distribute those controllers. So for now, developers should plan their prototypes around limited input.[caption id="attachment_20407" align="alignleft" width="1920"]

Fibrum VR mobile game

Image via Fibrum[/caption]

Selling the game

Perhaps more important than the genre or control scheme of a VR game is distribution. For the moment, distribution in this young industry is a free-for-all. Developers can create games for cheap devices like Google Cardboard and also for high-end devices like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. "Eventually you'll be on a dozen different app stores?and for an indie developer, that's the way to go," says Lyons.Fibrum in particular plans to take advantage of the multiplicity of distribution options: giving out codes for free games, both with its own and other manufacturers' headsets. After a trial period, players will be asked to make a purchase. This try-as-you-buy model has worked in the past for PC and console games, so it could work in VR as well.No matter where the games are sold, the growth prospects of the entire market look good. While the Samsung Gear VR costs about $100, both Fibrum and Merge have dropped their prices under $80, and Google's Daydream is likely to stay inexpensive, as well. Widespread availability of affordable headsets should help to rapidly increase the install base and ultimately expand the number of players buying mobile VR games.