VIVE held their fourth weekly webinar on Tuesday, April 21. The webinars have been and remain ongoing as a replacement for the company’s scheduled GDC content after the globally anticipated event was canceled due to coronavirus.
Marketing VR Games
The talk, given by VIVEPORT Senior Manager Thomas Gratz, shared “Lessons Learned from Marketing 100+ VR Games.”
“My hope is that you’ll be able to come away with some practical and actionable advice to really improve your marketing as you approach your VR title,” said Gratz.
Gratz’s talk built on the first of the series, given by VIVEPORT president Bjorn Book-Larsson.
Familiarity with Bjorn-Larsson’s talk was not required to understand and appreciate that given by Gratz. However, those interested in this topic will likely be interested in visiting the earlier talk if they missed it last month.
For even more related coverage, Oculus Head of Developer Relations Dan Morris gave a similar talk during Facebook’s virtual GDC coverage.
In addition to understanding what kind of users your VR game will be targeting, you should also know where they are.
According to Gratz, 50% of the VIVEPORT user base is located in the United States. Between this large demographic and smaller user bases in Canada and the United Kingdom, having game availability in English is very important.
The second largest percentage of VIVEPORT users are located in China with 11% of users.
During the Q&A period at the end of the presentation, Gratz said that the Middle East is currently a small market with huge potential. He also acknowledged a vicious cycle in which little Middle East content meant slower adoption, while slower adoption meant less market incentive to produce content localized for that area.
VIVEPORT allows four basic models for monetizing games: Subscription, Pay & Download, LBE/Arcade, and In-App Purchases.
At the moment, subscriptions make up 85% of VIVEPORT revenues. The platform itself is subscription-based. As a result, subscription-based games make sense on the platform.
Pay & Download games are those that are purchased once and downloaded by the user. This model is used more for larger, narrative, single-player VR games. While how much to charge for a game varies on a number of factors, Gratz noted a “really strong grouping” around $20.
He explained that if developers are thinking about starting at $20, a good starting point would actually be $25 or $30 so that there is some room for discounts and price slide over time. “It’s easier to go down the scale than up,” said Gratz.
Gratz also recommended looking at the price points of other VR games with similar audiences to gauge how the competition is approaching pricing.
The LBE/Arcade business model is for commercial licenses that allow VR arcades to offer VR games in physical storefronts.
Finally, in-app purchases involve low-price or free VR games with optional digital content that the user can purchase in-game.
“In-app has really high potential in the long-run, especially as more and more users move to stand-alone devices,” said Gratz.
How people find out about a VR game can have a significant impact on their interest and how much they are willing to pay for it. Traditionally, channels are classified as either owned, earned, or paid.
Owned channels are platforms on which a developer is able to self-promote a product, like their website.
Paid channels are those that a developer pays to enter, most notably advertisements.
Earned channels are those that a developer doesn’t necessarily have control over but that develop naturally, such as game reviews, press, and so on. These can be the most effective and the least expensive, according to Gratz.
“Most developers I work with don’t have huge followings on their own,” said Gratz, and later added that most developer also “don’t have significant paid budgets to put behind marketing.”
Developers can make the most of earned channels through developing partnerships with other organizations like distribution platforms, event organizers, social media influencers, and the press.
“Think about win-win scenarios. How can you create shared incentives, shared goals, so you have room to collaborate,” said Gratz, giving the example of distribution platforms that succeed when the developers and titles succeed.
Specifically, when a developer has their content on VIVEPORT, they get access to promotion including potential inclusion in the company’s blog and email newsletters. However, most of the platforms advertising budget is allocated to subscription-based VR games – which make up most of their revenue.
Marketing for a VR game doesn’t end when it hits the market. Developers should continue to engage with real and potential audiences and consider ways to keep their VR games from growing stale. Much of this involves listening to your players to hear what they like and don’t like about your game.
“There’s going to be ‘yes men’ who think everything you do is amazing, and there’s going to be heavy detractors who, all they do is essentially is, insult the devs in as many ways as they can think of,” said Gratz.
Updates after the game can include active updates on the part of the developers, as well as user-generated content. At the very least, developers should make it easy for players to share screenshots.
“What you’re looking for is a rising baseline performance over time, with spikes related to the updates and marketing actions you are taking,” said Gratz.
Community events for multiplayer titles can also be a good way to keep players engaged after release.
“Create moments in time that aren’t reliant on new content or patches,” said Gratz. He later added, on a related note, that “on the subscription side, there is an inherent benefit to multiplayer games from the fact that new content is essentially created by the other players.”
Gratz recommended that minding a VR game’s performance metrics was an important step in promoting it and learning from it after launch. Acknowledging that many VR games are made by fairly small independent developers, he suggested five key metrics to watch.
His five key metrics are store page views, wishlists, purchases, player concurrency, and reviews.
“If you only have five things to think about, think about these,” said Gratz. “If you only have these five things, this is full-funnel.”
More to Come
VIVE still has three live talks scheduled. They’ll be back next week when Director of Product Adhar Walia and Senior Manager Stanley Chung present “VIVEPORT Developer Console: What’s Coming in 2020.”
You can register for that talk now and see the schedule for the rest of the scheduled talks on the VIVE blog. If you missed any of the other talks and want to catch up on any or all of them, you can do that on the VIVE YouTube channel.
Meanwhile, we’ll be continuing to cover, condense, contextualize, and comment on them here at ARPost.