What the release of Oculus GO really means for Social VR

Now that the Oculus GO is out, we wanted to take a step back and reflect on where the VR industry is right now and where it’s headed. What follows is a reflection on how the release of Oculus GO will impact both our future and the future of Social VR as a whole.

Why the release of Oculus GO is huge for the VR industry

Virtual reality desperately needs an evolution of user experience. Using Gear / Rift / Vive requires relatively heavy setup: you have to put phone away for Mobile VR or be tangled with wires on PC VR. On an aggregate level, this has been a huge hindrance for people that want to consume VR content.

We could see this clearly from our own data. Playtime and engagement graphs are very skewed towards power users in most VR apps. This is simply because early adopters can withstand a lot of imperfections in user experience to enjoy the content they are passionate about. The mass consumer doesn’t put up with this. There is a reason why the iPhone was so pivotal in worldwide smartphone adoption. Oculus Go in some ways represents the iPhone moment for the VR industry.

Oculus GO represents a move towards mass consumption of virtual reality. It is a platform built only with VR consumption in mind. First, using it is as simple as putting on a baseball cap. You don’t have to give up using your phone: Go just syncs to it automatically.

Second, the screen on GO is really the first screen we can say is built for VR; it is the most beautiful display we have seen on an HMD. The image is just stunning. Oculus Rift, Vive or any other headset before this to a certain extent repurposed phone screens. Third, Oculus Go reduces friction in consuming VR. Imagine sitting in your living room watching a show, and checking your phone to see your friend playing a game. You can now just press a link and join them directly in VR, the way other platforms work. The way it’s supposed to work.

But one of the most important points of all: the price point. At $199 we can expect first timers to finally make the jump into VR. Price point can be a double edge sword: make it too low (like the free Gear VRs in earlier days) and you’ll see many users who are not interested in VR to begin with. Make it too expensive and you lose an important part of the market. From our perspective giving out Gear VR’s for free has definitely hurt VR more than most people realize.

The most exciting thing about this price point is that this is the first time any VR headset is truly giftable. Gifting earlier HMDs required the target to already own the supporting hardware (computer, gaming platform, mobile device). Think about how easy it will be now to receive a high-quality standalone VR headset as a gift and you’ll understand how Oculus GO represents a pivotal moment in VR history.

“Think about how easy it will be now to receive a high-quality standalone VR headset as a gift and you’ll understand how Oculus GO represents a pivotal moment in VR history.”

Poker VR was built for Oculus GO

Poker VR was always built for standalone headsets more than Gear VR. 1.5 years ago, when we were thinking of revamping our old product Casino VR Poker using everything we’d learned about VR and thinking about how Social VR should evolve, our baseline was a device like Oculus GO.

We’ve always been big believers in Mobile VR. Mobile VR meaning VR that can be consumed on the go, both standalone and phone based. Since its inception, Mobile VR has been hated on the most in the VR industry. We knew that barring some UX improvements, Mobile VR can be very engaging — almost as much as high end devices. We could see that from our numbers — there was no difference in playtime and engagement among power users on Gear vs Rift.

But the main question we wanted to answer was: How do we make the experience that power users were able to enjoy also enjoyable for a wider audience? Our answer to that question was Poker VR.

Poker VR launching on Oculus Go

Poker VR is a Social VR app much more than a Poker app

Poker VR is the most comprehensive social product built for Oculus GO. From matchmaking, tournaments, leaderboards, to avatars, gifts, and ranks, Poker VR offers plethora of features designed with only thing in mind: improving your social experience.

Since Poker VR’s launch on Gear VR, we can finally shed some light on how important social engagement is. First, almost everyone that stays with the app does so because of the social effect, very few stay to just play poker. User behavior analysis indicated that there was an extremely strong positive correlation between playtime and in-game social interactions. Having 5 friends in VR meant you were 5 times more likely to enjoy the experience and keep playing.

We made the friends system as simple as possible, where you can quickly join any friend’s game or invite both online and offline friends into your game at the click of a button. We eliminated friction where we could find it, and this was one of our best decisions to date.

“We doubled down on features such as the friend system where you can quickly join any friend’s game or invite both online and offline friends into your game at the click of a button.”

Our community is a tightly knit powerhouse of user engagement.

We are very lucky to have a very vibrant community, one which spans all age groups and walks of life. We think a part of that is because of how poker as a game resonates with all kinds of people. But we’ve also taken care to talk to them one on one, as if they were part of the team. Because they are.

Within our community you find all types of players, from competitive Achievers that have demonstrably improved their win rate to Socializers that are just looking to spend a fun time. We have shown that although not all of your friends may have access to an HMD, it is not only possible but extremely easy to make new friendships in VR.

The rate at which this happens is actually staggering, higher than anyone could expect. And the increased market reach that Go will provide will only accelerate this phenomenon.

We have consistently pushed the limits of VR engagement

Our first app — Casino Poker VR — broke the record for daily playtime per user, clocking at 40+ minutes. This average was heavily influenced by power users playing hours on end.

When we came out with the wholly revamped Poker VR, we were able to increase that average to 60+ minutes. The increase was not due to power users playing longer hours, but because our baseline is rising. A new player now spends on average 30 instead of 15 minutes in their first session.Since Oculus Go is THE headset for the masses, we believe this engagement will only rise.

We have been the most featured app in Oculus store history, and the poker tournaments which unite hundreds of players at the same time paved the way for larger social events on the Gear VR platform. These are still some of the largest live events happening on the Oculus Store.

Why Mega Particle is different from other Social VR companies

Due to limitations in processing power and restrictions in UX, building scalable, complex social interactions is harder on Mobile VR devices. We believe that to enable social interactions, design should be as expressive and realistic as possible, without falling into the uncanny valley.

Our years of work on our avatars represent that. Specifically the habit of pushing all platforms into their complete limits in terms of how realistic the features can be. We’re talking for example of minute cornea movements in avatars’ eyes, realistic mouth movements, that tiny twitch on eyebrows… there are a lot of minor things in our avatars that make you feel socially present with others.

We had committed to that from the beginning, even as we developed Poker VR for Gear. We were just waiting for the right moment, and today it finally came.

What is next for Mega Particle

One thing we are really excited about now that our main app Poker VR is out on GO (and soon on Rift and Vive) is that we have a very specific vision for features that enable and enhance user to user communication. This isn’t just revamping our friends system — think more in terms of improving user identity, expressivity, connectivity, and interaction.

“We have a very specific vision for features that enable and enhance user to user communication”

The possibilities are endless, and the journey long and exciting, but we don’t want to give anything out just yet. There will be some trial and error, for sure, but if our past is anything to go by we will succeed in our goal of taking user engagement to the next level. Over the next 6 months you are going to see a lot more investment into improving the social experience.

We have anomaly built into our DNA. Our name is an oxymoron — ‘Mega’ means big and ‘Particle’ means small. The only way we can continue existing is if we become a window into another reality. One in which the earlier rules do not apply. And that reality has to be built together, on social relationships. The future that we believe in is social by nature.

More

Poker VR is a free to play multiplayer poker game available on Gear VR, Oculus Go, and very soon Rift. If you enjoy real life poker, Poker VR is the closest thing to that awesome experience. Join the community on discord to give feedback, suggestions, and keep in touch with friends new and old!

We’re going to VRLA 2018 to officially launch Poker VR on Go and Rift. Buy a ticket if you haven’t already and come join the fun!