OPINION: WarDucks CEO on moving from mobile to console VR

Nikki Lannen, CEO and founder of Dublin-based studio WarDucks (pictured right), speaks to MCV about her studio’s transition from mobile to console VR. 

Virtual reality is the future. That looks pretty certain. The hardware is evolving, and adoption will almost certainly continue to increase. I work in a virtual reality studio based in Dublin. We began our journey into VR about two years ago. It’s an exciting space, and one that I believe will grow significantly in the coming years. We started building for mobile VR devices initially, in particular the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard.

Sneaky Bears and Sneaky Bears Rollercoaster were both released on these devices in November 2016 and March 2017. Both were successful in their own right, and we’re excited about our new release of a much more in-depth version of Sneaky Bears on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

The transition from building for mobile VR versus console and PC VR has been an interesting and challenging one. One in particular is the monetisation strategy. People are used to free-to-play models on mobile. Games like Candy Crush Saga are geniuses at making this work, generating money from the scale of users making in-app purchases and allowing plenty of time to serve those precious ads.

Mobile VR is very different. VR works off a premium model and users generally need to pay upfront. Most hardware providers are not allowing ads to be served as it’s still early days and they don’t want to ruin that immersive experience.

The reason we see more users on mobile VR than on console and PC VR is the cost of entry for users. There is, however, an advantage to this scenario. Consumers who invest a lot into their hardware are also usually willing to invest in their games and experiences to get the most value from their hardware. 

The reason we see more users on mobile VR than on console and PC VR is the cost of entry for users.

Nikki Lannen, WarDucks

While the price point is a significant difference, there’s also a large difference in quality. With Sneaky Bears, we developed the same basic idea for console and PC VR as we did for mobile, but the game is very, very different. Gameplay is expanded, the art is higher quality, and overall it is a much more in-depth and enjoyable game. Touch and motion-tracking makes shooting more realistic, too, which is lacking in mobile VR. 

All of these improvements and expanded gameplay also came with challenges. We were essentially developing for completely new platforms, but wanted to use a lot of the same assets. We found that the existing assets did not hold up within console and PC VR. This caused the development process to take a little longer than expected. We ran into challenges with the new art as well, some of which was too intricate to work within a VR setting. This caused a lot of going back and forth to find the right combination that worked and looked the best with the headset on.

Overcoming these problems allowed us to make a great game out of Sneaky Bears. We think of our mobile VR development process like a test ground for what we have now finally built. We are excited to be at the forefront of this industry and are happy to contribute to the expanding content for VR. Sneaky Bears is available for purchase now on PS VR and Oculus Rift, with HTC Vive coming soon. 

Nikki Lannen is a leader in Ireland’s virtual reality space. She is the founder and CEO of WarDucks, and has also spent over four years at Facebook, where she founded the games team and worked closely with executives from the top games businesses in EMEA.

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