How the ultimate VR experiences will employ VR and non-VR based interactions.
The pervasiveness of mobile technologies today can be seen any time you’re in a public place, just by looking around at the amount of people with heads down, partially engaged in some activity on their smartphones. This creates an ideal platform for marketers and game developers because of the frequency of use; the actions we take on our phone easily become habitual since we have access to the devices at hand in any waking moment, but VR does not afford developers this ‘stickiness’ of usership.
At this stage, there is very little opportunity for people to have a fully immersive experience in public — both for reasons of safety and practicality — and so the emphasis tends to be on forming habits and releasing endorphins on the short term.
This difference in platform means that in developing experiences for VR, we must use a different methodology and mindset than those creating mobile-only games. The simple fact of the matter is that we’re not going to be able to get as many hours of usage out of our users, and so building towards incentivizing the player to ‘take the next step’ or become invested and check back every X minutes — a typical approach in driving mobile engagement, doesn’t work.
In order to create more connection with our users, VU needs to be multimodal — that is to say, it should be a platform that is accessible from different contexts and devices. Diving into VR is, in the right title, one hundred percent immersive and requires the correct equipment and environment — likely at the users home. It follows then, that there needs to be interactions and elements of game play that will extend from the virtual world the user experiences within the headset — to mobile devices and web browsers to enable participation on a smaller scale when the user isn’t in that ideal environment or doesn’t have the time to become fully immersed.
Through this multimodal approach, we allow the user the opportunity to influence the world, strategize and play in some way that matters — without being fully immersed in the VU platform.
The key here is to give them capabilities that are fun and allow them to have some agency over what’s happening in this world in a useful and lasting way. It is not our goal to make something that serves only as eye candy or that keeps the user in a state of repetitive and addictive actions — we built VU to be fun.
In addition, these extra modalities allow us more information about the user, which can be used to make the experience more entertaining and interesting. From a marketing perspective, it also has the handy side effect of being a very rich way of engaging users and creating a fictional world that reaches out into the real lives of its users. For example, this allows for some very fun and creating ways of inviting your users to virtual events as if they were really happening. We have seen the great and lasting effect easter egg hunts have had in mobile games such as Pokemon Go — entertaining people for hours in the real world, as they feel spurred on by and part of the community at large.
We have some plans in this area but they will be the topic of discussion for another time. Certainly, increasing engagement through the utilization of different modalities in creating a connected, over-arching virtual universe that can be shaped to the users will regardless of device and context is a big area of inquiry for VU.
Ciaran Foley is CEO of Ukledo and Immersive Entertainment, Inc. a Southern California virtual reality software company developing a new virtual engagement platform called Virtual Universe (VU).
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