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[Gamesbriefers] Will VR be free-to-play?

By on October 2, 2014


The first range of consumer VR headsets are likely to be hitting the market shortly, led by the Samsung Gear VR. Will VR be a console-style device, where pay-upfront pricing dominates? Or will the platform trend towards free-to-play?

And how is the involvement of Samsung (for mobile), Facebook (for Oculus) and Sony (for Morpheus) likely to influence the market?



paul taylorPaul Kilduff-Taylor Mode 7

One point here is that VR tends to lend itself to immersive narrative experiences, which doesn’t suit F2P as a model. I’d predict that lot of the early successful made-for-VR stuff will probably be a bit less interactive and a bit more “movie-like”, so that says pay-once to me.

Having said that, F2P has a massive role in almost every genre and medium now so I don’t doubt that F2P VR games will be huge eventually; particularly as there’s a new way to show off aesthetic stuff / character designs etc.

Tech is still a big factor at this point – the earlier Oculus stuff wasn’t anywhere close to something a mainstream consumer would tolerate (nor was it supposed to be), so I think there’ll be a clear leader here in terms of solving stuff like simulator sickness and the cumbersome nature of the headset – it’ll simply be down to who does that first, I think.


pecorellaAnthony Pecorella Director of Production for Virtual Goods Games, Kongregate

I’m not sure that I agree that VR lends itself primarily to narrative experiences. Immersive absolutely, that’s the whole point. But I don’t think narrative plays in, and I actually suspect that virtual worlds are going to be one of the dominant models, with Minecraft and Second Life-style games suddenly gaining much more realism and impact. Perhaps it’s just the Ready Player One talking, but I think we’ll see at least one major virtual world become a billion dollar business on VR.

I do feel like VR, at least in the current-gen iterations, lends itself to larger commitments in sessions, in the same way (or perhaps more so) than consoles. You have to sit down, strap on the headset, and stay in one place for a while. It’s a very different interaction than mobile and so short-session games like puzzle sagas and card battle games seem likely to have difficulty. We’ll see energy gates and timer systems continue to evolve for the platform, but I see no inherent reason that free to play won’t work in some way for it.


PatrickO'Luanaigh2Patrick O’Luanaigh nDreams

I think you’ll see a mix of different models over the first 12 months. Our two launch titles for the Samsung Gear VR are both pay-up-front, but one has DLC and additional elements coming later. In my view, you need a big install base to have success with free-to-play, so I think anyone launching on a new platform with a F2P model is crazy.

However, ‘paymium’ does make a lot of sense on all VR headsets. Some of our games for Morpheus and Oculus Rift are service style games which we hope will grow over time. But all of them (at least for launch) have a pay-up-front element.

It’s worth pointing out that I really on’t think VR lends itself to ‘snackable’ games – it’s perfect for experiences which take you to another world, and 10-15 minute game sessions are ideal. But isn’t not suitable for ’30 seconds in a Starbucks queue’ type games. And 2D games also don’t make any sense in VR.

I think you’ll see longer play sessions than on mobile F2P gaming, and an interesting mix of different game types.


Mark SorrellMark Sorrell Free-to-play consultant

I don’t think simulator sickness is a solvable problem with current technology, so I see the whole thing as a dead end. A bit like 3D TVs.

I don’t think that this question has much weight until the technology itself has been accepted by consumers. The obvious points about the time and effort commitment that VR headsets require are, of course, true, but beyond that this seems to be nothing but conjecture.


Ella-RomanosElla Romanos Strike Game Labs

I have to admit I am very sceptical about the idea that VR will really take off in it’s current form. As Mark said I liken it to 3D TVs.

I think that the barriers for consumers are too high, in comparison to the benefits – at least with current technology anyway.

I recently read the book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ and was thinking about VR when reading it. Currently VR is marketed for, and targeting early adopters (which you would expect at this stage), but I can’t see yet how VR is going to ‘cross the chasm’ from early adopters to targeting and marketing to the mass market, and until someone explains to me how that is going to happen I’m going to remain a sceptic I’m afraid!


pecorellaAnthony Pecorella Director of Production for Virtual Goods Games, Kongregate

I concede that my response is under the assumption that they can make a consumer product that reduces the barriers to a viable product level. Certainly Facebook thinks this will be the case, otherwise they just blew two Big ones on Oculus. While I understand the 3DTV comparison, I do think VR is a somewhat different animal. 3DTVs were quite expensive and the effect was, frankly, quite underwhelming in my opinion. Unlike HDTV, I did not find 3DTV (or movies) to really substantially change my viewing experience. I had to close one eye regularly to remind myself that “hey, this is kinda neat”.

VR on the other hand does offer something revolutionary, a new level of immersion and control that really changes the way you interact with the technology. Certainly early adopters are the first target, but with the buzz around the devices and the fact that Facebook is backing it, they’re going to be targeting mass market before too long if at all possible. And if they can find a killer app, even a demo that gives people that “a-ha!” moment where they realize that this is something special (I tell my “A-ha!” moment story to people regularly), and couple it with a palatable price, then we could see it take off.


Andrew SmithAndrew Smith Spilt Milk Studios

I kinda see Oculus (etc) as the big £120 IAP of gaming in general.

I love games, would pay through the nose for a step closer to the Holodeck… And perhaps that’s what’s needed. Oculus/Facebook need a Nintendo-style attitude and skill for first party exclusives combined with a Sony-style attitude towards getting the best versions of third party (mostly indie) content on there fast.

PSPlus might be a sensible model, or at least demonstrate some relevant thinking…

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