Paid Media Spending Seeing Slow Increase

Although spending on advertising will continue to be high in the U.S., there’s a struggle that needs to be overcome.

eMarketer recently reported that paid media spending will see a 5.1 percent growth, and while that’s still progress, it’s a little slow compared to what advertisers spend on routine media formats such as radio and television. Overall spending for U.S. media is expected to reach $192 billion for the year, driven behind such events as the presidential election and the Rio Olympics this summer.

The report, titled U.S. Ad Spending: eMarketer’s Estimates for 2016, indicates that conditions for economic growth aren’t as strong as they used to be, leading to smaller estimates than most companies expected. That said, there’s still room for the digital market to show growth.



Digital media will see the biggest growth in ad spending share over the next few years, going from 32.6 percent this past year to 44.9 percent by 2020. TV will see a slight drop by five percent in this time frame, while print will follow closely behind with about a four percent drop.

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While TV continues to be the leader of total media ad spending at the moment, digital is quickly gaining, and coming very close to overlapping it for this year. We’ll see it overtake completely by 2017, and it’ll have a near $40 billion advantage by 2020, powered by entertainment services like Netflix and Hulu.

However, the bigger picture here is how media ad spending will increase overall, as the total is expected to jump from $192.02 billion for this year, up to $234.25 billion by 2020. So even though the numbers may be seeing a slight lull at the moment, the future appears wide open.

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Oculus Rift’s Marketing: From Kickstarter Beginnings To Facebook Triumph

The Oculus Rift ships today to both pre-order buyers and early adopters from its initial Kickstarter campaign. It’s taken a while for the virtual reality headset to make its way to market, but many consider it’s worth the wait once they step into its immersive possibilities. It’s been a long road, with humble beginnings, but the Oculus Rift could mark a major change in entertainment.

The Oculus Rift initially got its start in 2012, when Oculus VR (then an independent company) showcased a unit to various members of the public and press, prior to the launch of its Kickstarter campaign. Though it was based on very early marketing buzz, the project was endorsed by personalities like Cliff Bleszinski from Epic Games, Gabe Newell from Valve (who later partnered with HTC to develop the Vive), and John Carmack, who eventually left id Software to become CTO at Oculus. The crowdfunding campaign was a massive success, earning over $2.4 million and far surpassing its $250,000 goal.

Since that time, Oculus continued to improve the technology through a number of pre-production models, including the DK1 in late 2012 and the DK2 in mid-2014, both of which were provided to developers in the hopes of making the most out of the technology. They were also used extensively at events like the Game Developers Conference, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and Oculus Connect to showcase the possibilities of virtual reality.

Although these demonstrations were relatively small, Oculus was growing a reputation and legitimizing the technology. By March 2014, that was more than enough to get the interest of a potential investor: Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, announced a then-unheard-of $2 billion purchase of the company, stating that it would put the social network in a “position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.” This put Oculus on a whole new level, and is often seen as the point where enthusiasm for virtual reality really took off, as competitors like the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR, were later announced.

With funding from the social media giant, Oculus took a bold leap forward with promoting its forthcoming Rift headset, including a full-on presentation last year prior to E3, where it introduced a number of new games in development, a partnership with Microsoft, and showed-off the Oculus Touch controllers.

The company also went to great lengths to introduce new partners for game development with the headset, including Insomniac Games with its survival adventure game Edge of Nowhere; the fast-paced racing game Blaze Rush; and modified versions of EVE: Valkyrie and Elite: Dangerous.

But Oculus got a surprising social media push when creator Palmer Luckey ended up on the cover of Time Magazine, wearing the Oculus device while apparently standing on a beach. While the image became fodder for a number of humorous memes, it also created positive awareness of virtual reality in general.


Before the release of its own headset, Oculus partnered with Samsung for the more affordable Gear VR, which became a surprising hit when it launched last year. While it did introduce a sort of competitor to the market, it gave users a taste of what to expect from premium virtual reality experiences.

As Oculus VR came closer to completion, Facebook opened up more on the possibilities that the headset would provide, and not just to gaming. The social media experience will be a vital part of the device as its release becomes more widespread, and Zuckerberg was even quick to note how it could recreate “you were there” moments with friends and family. “Hopefully within a year Max will be taking her first steps, and when I took my first step, my mom wrote down the date in a book,” Zuckerberg stated at this year’s annual Friends Day gathering. “I want to take a 360 video of it, so that way even if my parents aren’t there, my grandparents aren’t there, they can experience it, they can actually be in the scene.” This is in line with how Facebook began supporting 360-degree videos (and VR advertising) last year.

Pre-orders began on January 6 with the $600 price tag, and some wondered how the high price point would impact consumer adoption. Even so, the first wave of orders sold out within 15 minutes. This year’s Game Developers Conference was the biggest showcase for the headset to date. Its booth was one of the biggest on the floor, a far cry from its simple set-up at the show a few years prior. It showed just how devoted the company had become in promoting the Oculus as a full-scale gaming platform, although it serves other entertainment purposes as well.

Oculus has come a long way from being a small project in creator Palmer Luckey’s garage, to becoming one of the biggest entertainment devices for 2016. Its pre-orders have sold out over the next few months, and the company should have an even bigger plan for the holidays.

Periscope Sets Livestreaming Landmark In Its First Year

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year since Twitter launched its livestreaming service, Periscope, to an eager public. What’s even harder to believe is how popular it has become since its debut on the market.

Twitter has revealed its first year stats for the livestreaming app, indicating that 200 million broadcasts have been hosted with it since its debut—100 million of which are from the past three months alone. On top of that, approximately 110 years worth of live video have been watched across both the iOS and Android applications, showing an overall increase of 91 percent since August.

Periscope 3

Periscope has done a lot since its debut, even crushing its main opponent Meerkat in a matter of months, forcing the rival to reconsider its social media approach. The service also managed to gain some notoriety around live events, including illegal streams of the much-hyped Mayweather-versus-Pacquiao fight.

Periscope’s popularity has gotten to the point where other companies have developed their own livestreaming services to keep up, including Facebook’s live video streams and Google’s rumored development of YouTube Connect.

The breakdown below shows how much Periscope has grown over the past year, starting with its initial launch on iOS, its later support of devices like Apple TV and GoPro, and launching Periscope through Twitter. It was even named Apple’s App of the Year before its first year was complete.

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As far as where Periscope will go in the coming year, Twitter will make (legal) live events the big focus, as CEO Jack Dorsey explained to Bloomberg that it “still centers around bringing people together to watch live events in the place where information comes the fastest.”

Now the question is if Periscope can help Twitter turn around its stagnant user numbers. The service reported that its user count for the last quarter came in at 320 million that contribute monthly, which is about the same as the previous quarter.

For the time being, the service has really taken off, and it’ll be interesting to see what innovations Twitter will introduce over the next year.

Why Unity Is The Top Choice For Pioneering VR Development

Today marks the launch of the Oculus Rift, one of the first premium virtual reality headsets to come out this year, with the HTC Vive to follow in April and PlayStation VR hitting in October. The device comes with two free games (EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale) and an Xbox One controller bundled together. There are also 30 VR launch games now available to purchase from the Oculus store, which is quite impressive for a new platform. Even more so is fact that over half of them (16, to be exact) are made using the Unity Engine—including the bundled-in Lucky’s Tale.

Unity’s success isn’t limited to premium headsets like the Oculus Rift, as about 90 percent of Samsung Gear VR’s content was made with Unity. Nor do the positive statistics end with virtual reality, since 30 percent of the top 1,000 grossing mobile games worldwide were made with Unity. In fact, games that sport the “Made With Unity” logo are downloaded 1.5 billion times a month.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that so many developers are drawn to Unity, considering how the technology company has done much to place itself at the forefront of mobile and virtual reality development. In February, Unity Technologies hosted the Vision Summit, which united the biggest players in VR to showcase some of the amazing possibilities this new technology had to offer.

Marcos Sanchez, head of global communications for Unity Technologies, said at the time that one of the greatest challenges in promoting VR content is giving consumers a first-hand experience. “Great VR content is already available, but videos and images of VR games and videos don’t quite do them justice,” he said. “To help drive adoption, it’s critical to raise awareness and provide more people demos and access to hardware.”

Since Samsung offered a free Gear VR headset (which normally costs $99) with every Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphone pre-order, we’ve grown closer to getting VR into the hands of as many people as possible. Hopefully, everyone will have a chance to play VR games like Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games, which was developed using Unity for the Gear VR. Additionally, annual upgrade programs hosted by some carriers will help ensure that consumers will always be up-to-date with the latest mobile VR technology.

Now, it’s up to the developers to create compelling content to justify the investment, and many are choosing Unity to make it. When asked why Unity was so popular among VR developers, Sanchez told [a]listdaily, “Unity has always focused on democratizing development by providing developers of all shapes and sizes with a platform that allows them to bring their creative ideas to life quickly and easily. That means taking many of the difficult coding tasks away so that developers can focus on gameplay, storytelling and rich graphics.

“We also provide a host of services from ads to analytics to discovery that allow developers to more effectively monetize their games, increasing their ability to succeed,” Sanchez adds. “Once created, developers can choose from over 25 platforms to export to, including 2D, 3D, VR and AR. That power is why over 30 percent of the games in the top 1,000 grossing mobile games are made with Unity. And, if you’re just starting out, you can download and start creating with Unity for free.”

Sanchez also relates some of the challenges in creating development tools for an emerging technology like virtual technology. “It’s the early days and we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of imagining what virtual reality and augmented reality experiences could look like,” he said. “We’re just learning as a community what works and what doesn’t, because the process of storytelling is different when you move in 3D space. We’ve begun the process by creating an early version of VR scene editing in VR, which really makes sense when you think about it. Our Unity Labs team will be thinking very deeply about not just how developers create content, but how everyone will become creators.”

The sense of exploration falls in-line with what Sanchez said new developers should keep in mind as we enter the virtual reality era. “Mass adoption of VR and AR won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, and it will be driven as much by indie developers pushing the creative boundaries, as by larger more established content and game creators.”

Unity’s chief marketing officer, Clive Downie, also shared his thoughts on VR with [a]listdaily during last month’s Vision Summit, stating that, “People are in exploration mode, and they need to know that that’s ok. There’s a risk and a gamble, and they want to know that this will pay off.” Downie further remarks that all great inventions throughout history have been risky, but they’ve made people’s lives better. He believes that AR/VR will also do so over the course of five years.

Of the 30 games launching alongside the Oculus Rift today, these are the ones made using Unity, and there will surely be plenty more to come in the future.

  • Adventure Time by Turbo Button
  • Audio Arena by Skydome Studios
  • Darknet by EMcNeil
  • Dead Secret by Robot Invader
  • Dreadhalls by White Door Games
  • Esper 2 by Coatsink
  • Fly to KUMA by COLOPL
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes by Steel Crate Games
  • Lucky’s Tale by Playful
  • Omega Agent by Fireproof Games
  • Radial G by Tammeka Games
  • Rooms by HandMadeGame
  • Smashing the Battle by One-Man Studios
  • Vektron Revenge by Ludovic Texier
  • VR Tennis Online by LCOLOPL
  • Windlands by Psytec Games Ltd

Mobcrush Exec Discusses Rise Of Female Mobile ESports

Livestreaming site Mobcrush focuses on mobile games and mobile eSports. The company hosted its first livestreamed mobile tournament back in March 2015—an eight-player Hearthstone match in Boston. At this year’s SXSW Gaming, Mobcrush hosted mobile eSports tournaments for five different games over three days in Austin, which marked the first mobile eSports tournament at the pop culture festival.

This past weekend, they sponsored the return of the all-female Vainglory tournament, Femme Fatale Winter Championship. Twenty-four all-female global teams competed for a winner-take-all prize of $1,000 and 7,200 ICE (Vainglory’s in-game currency). The entire event was livestreamed on Mobcrush, with popular streamer Holly “Lady Wabeesh” Carroll reprising her role as shoutcaster.

Koh Kim, co-head of business development at Mobcrush, discusses the opportunities mobile eSports is opening up for female pro gamers in this exclusive interview.

Koh-KimWhy did Mobcrush decide to focus on mobile eSports? 

Our overarching vision at Mobcrush is to connect the one billion-plus mobile gamers in the world. ESports is a part of that strategy for a couple of reasons. Without a doubt, our community has a lot of enthusiasm for the growing mobile eSports scene, thanks in part to more and more great competitive titles coming to market, like Vainglory, Clash Royale and Hearthstone. But the Mobcrush platform also enables key elements of the eSports ecosystem that are critical to the growth of the scene: a platform for easy viewing and broadcasting, passionate personalities to rally the community, and in-stream chat tools to keep everyone connected, active and excited.

How have you seen mobile eSports grow with Hearthstone and Vainglory in recent years?

We’re seeing the scene get more competitive, with more organizations coming to the scene. It’s really exciting to see long standing eSports organizations like Team Solomid bring mobile teams under their umbrellas. At Mobcrush, we’ve been working with GankStars for just about six months, and it’s been great to see them take a leadership role in the Vainglory scene, and set a high code of conduct and lay the groundwork for building an active, inclusive, competitive community for fans and players.

How did the SXSW Gaming mobile eSports tournament go?

It was phenomenal. We had tournaments for five different games over the course of three days: Vainglory, Hearthstone, Clash Royale, Minecraft, and a game still in development, Mayhem, from Chocolabs. The diversity of the players that participated—all ages, all genders, all types of gamers—was really exciting to see.

How do you see that event evolving at SXSW?

It’s only going to get bigger and better. The gaming expo has become massive, with over 55,000 attendees in 2015, which I’m sure was exceeded in 2016. With mobile continuing to gain recognition as the most prominent gaming platform, with the widest, most diverse audience, the demand is definitely there.

Since many fans watch all types of eSports coverage on mobile devices, how does this help growth potential for mobile eSports titles?

So much of our lives are now tied to our mobile devices … communications, our professional lives, entertainment. We’re growing accustomed to viewing content on mobile, including eSports programming, on the same device we connect with friends in Vainglory or Hearthstone. The experience is so intertwined. I think the mobile platform itself, with its ever-growing capabilities and uses, and how ingrained our devices are in our moment-to-moment lives, is a huge boon for the mobile eSports scene.

SXSW Mobcrush

Mobile gaming seems to have a very large female player audience. What does this open up for female pro eSports with Vainglory or Hearthstone?

It’s something of a “clean slate.” We’re seeing a better mix of male and female players in the top ranks, and many more mixed teams. That’s a great message for the community. There are more female players and personalities, giving other females the role models they’re looking for. That really puts out the message that any hardworking, talented player will have a platform to succeed, and the support of the community.

We haven’t seen a lot of growth with traditional PC and console female pro eSports. Do you feel that will evolve over time?

I think it will. There are certainly more opportunities in general in PC and console eSports, and for all the discussion this topic gets, I hope there will be more efforts and strides made in actually changing the course. I do think that the rise of mobile eSports, with a more balanced community, will help to pave the way for diversity in console and PC eSports.

Have you seen interest in the Femme Fatale Vainglory event grow from the first one to this second one?

Absolutely. Last year’s event went over really well, with fans congregating at live viewing parties, and a great showing from all the players. Many of the players from last year’s event went on to join competitive teams, and continue to rise through the ranks. This year’s event, we’re seeing a lot of interest, but also a bit of a different flavor. The competitive spirit is amped up, as we have top players coming to the tournament with rivalries and reputations to uphold. It’s going to be an awesome event.

What are your future plans with PAX and other public events with mobile eSports?

After the successes we’ve had at SXSW Gaming and the second Femme Fatale Tournament, we’re eager to continue giving mobile gaming fans the opportunity to play, connect and compete with one another. We’ll have more event news to share soon.

Do you feel like we’re past the hump of people not accepting mobile eSports as legitimate?

I think we’ve come a long, long way, but we have a ways to go. Same for PC and console eSports. For eSports to continue to grow, in both the mobile and PC/console space, it has to become more accessible. ESports content needs to be easy to find, follow and understand, with an inclusive, welcoming community to rally around it.

Despite the massive growth, high profile sponsors, prize pools, and TV broadcasting contracts, there’s still that underlying sentiment that can arise of, “Why would anyone want to watch someone else play video games?” At Mobcrush, we’re eager for people to jump on a stream and see that’s not what it is at all. It’s socializing, connecting, supporting and playing with other gamers.

Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ Encourages Fans To Engage In Hashtag Billboard War

Netflix has been riding high since the release of season two of Marvel’s Daredevil last week, with thousands of fans watching the debut of new characters like The Punisher and Elektra. Now, the promotion is taking things a step further with an interactive billboard in Toronto that will let fans determine who gets the most punishment.

AdWeek reported that a new billboard, located in Toronto’s Dundas Square, features the three pivotal characters from the new season: Daredevil, The Punisher and Elektra. However, there’s also a unique twist. Each image comes with a specific hashtag, and social media users can post messages with said hashtags to support their favorite—a move encouraged by Netflix with a “Join the Fight” message.

Netflix 2

Every 48 hours, the character with the most hashtag mentions will do physical damage to the other boards. For instance, if The Punisher gets the most votes, then the images of Daredevil and Elektra see damaging effects, including slash marks, bruises and bullet holes. The battle can turn around in a matter of days, with one of the characters “getting even” with the other.

It’s a neat innovation, and a great way for Marvel fans to get involved with the show outside of “binging” on the 13-episode run. Here’s hoping there will someday be more billboard installations, and we can’t wait to see who is the last one standing.

‘Pokémon GO!’ Builds Up Steam With New Reveal

Last month, The Pokémon Company celebrated the 20th anniversary of the best-selling Pokémon franchise in a variety of ways, including new games like Pokken Tournament, a thrilling Super Bowl ad, and in-store promotions to keep fans excited. One thing that’s sure to be a hit for the company this year is the upcoming “real-world gaming” app Pokémon GO!

Initially announced last year, Pokémon GO! promises to be an involving experience for players, enabling them to capture Pokémon creatures in real-world environments, making fine use of augmented reality. Today, the team at Niantic Labs revealed an extensive look at the game and how it will work.

“This platform combines mobile location technology and augmented reality to create a unique game experience that motivates players to go outside and explore the world around them,” the development team explained.

But players won’t be able to pick up types of Pokémon from the get-go. Certain ones require exploration. For example, water-based Pokémon (like Squirtle) can only be found near lakes and oceans. Furthermore, players will need to visit PokéStops, found at real-world locations like public art installations and museums, to acquire eggs and special items. Then they’ll need to walk around in order to hatch the eggs in the hopes of acquiring new Pokémon for their collection.


The social aspect of the game, like with previous Pokémon titles, lies in battles. Players will be able to join up with one of three different teams in an effort to compete for ownership of select Gyms. This involves placing one of their characters inside another player’s gym in real world stops, in the hopes of overtaking them.

Players who capture more than one type of Pokémon stand a better chance of having them evolve into more powerful characters so that they can “take over” opposing Gyms. That’s bound to be a big draw for mobile users who want to get the most out of their game by completing their library of Pokémon creatures.


Pokémon GO! is looking to become a key aspect in the series’ 20th anniversary celebration, with a social and augmented reality experience that will be right up there with the highly popular Ingress. There’s still no release date for the game, but it is expected to come out sometime this year, for iOS and Android. A test should be taking place around springtime, indicating that the game is nearly ready for launch.

BetaDwarf Wants Twitch Viewers To Determine The Price Of ‘Forced Showdown’

Developer BetaDwarf Entertainment has had a very unconventional history, to say the least. The team began as a group of squatters, living out of an unused university classroom for several months, to work on their dream game: an action role-playing game called Forced. However, they were caught and thrown out, forcing the struggling developers to pool their savings and rent a place to live and work from. Eventually, they took their game to Kickstarter, and the campaign almost didn’t make it, but supporters who told their story caused a sudden upsurge in funding.

Despite a number of trials and setbacks, BetaDwarf was able to release its first game, and now works from an actual office in Copenhagen. It’s also preparing to launch Forced Showdown—a competitive battle-arena game, where players use collectible in-game cards to enhance their characters with special abilities and skills. In some ways, it’s like Diablo meets Hearthstone, with a combative sci-fi game show as the backdrop.


A team with such an unconventional start clearly needs to have equally unique methods of promoting its second game, so it has taken two things gamers loveTwitch streaming and discountsand combined them to create a week-long pre-launch campaign that inventively follows the game show theme.

BetaDwarf partnered with a number of Twitch streamers and gave them early access to the game. In turn, they’re livestreaming it on their channels for a week. The campaign, which started on March 23 and ends when Forced Showdown releases on Tuesday, discounts the game in accordance to how many cumulative minutes it’s watched. Viewers might get a reward for watching, including additional discounts and early access to the game.

SteffenProfileSteffen Kabbelgaard, CEO and game director at BetaDwarf, spoke with [a]listdaily about how the idea for the campaign came together. “We think our game is suited for streaming, and we wanted to kickstart that in some way. The more eyes there are on the game, the more potential sales. Since the community is helping us hype the game, we would like to return the favor by making it cheaper—[it’s a] win-win!”

So far, with hundreds of people watching, Forced Showdown has been viewed for over 93,000 minutes (about 1,550 hours or almost 65 days), earning a 4 percent discount on Steam. The time is tracked live on the official website, and viewership could spike higher over the weekend. Each milestone unlocks special prizes that can be redeemed once Forced Showdown launches. Kabbelgaard isn’t willing to reveal how low the price can possibly go, but said, “it’s very low for a new game,” and that the discount “will last for one week, like a standard launch discount.”

Forced Showdown, which has changed names twice from Forced 2 and Eternal Arenas, completed its Kickstarter campaign with an extra thousand dollars last fall. Additionally, the game has been in closed beta testing on Steam for over a year, which helped to promote the game. “We have a community from our first game, Forced, which has done really well so far,” notes Kabbelgaard. “Even though the games aren’t exactly equal, they still share a lot of similarities.”

There is still plenty of time to watch Forced Showdown and help drive down the price of the game when it launches next week.

Grubhub Introduces Food-Focused Emoji

All sorts of companies are feeding the need for emoji as of late. Taco Bell ran a branded (and delicious) campaign featuring the images; Star Wars recently employed a successful run of branded emoji on Twitter; and this weekend’s release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has its own share of images.

Now, Grubhub is getting in on the action, but instead of just creating its own food-related emoji, it’s taking popular eating terms on the web and turning them into images.

The company recently announced that it has teamed up with Snaps to create the Mmmoji keyboard app. There are over 50 different terms available, and they include “hangry,” “hot,” “tasty,” “delish” and “fresh.” In addition, users will be able to share images, such as spicy jalapeños and peppers, over social media.

“Grubhub aims to bring joy to all the moments that matter to our diners, on days of significance and those that are part of the everyday,” said Barbara Martin Coppola, CMO of the company.

This news comes hot on the heels of a new report revealed by VentureBeat, indicating that mobile marketers are heavily into promotion with emoji. The report states that use of the images have increased by nearly eight times (or 775 percent) over the previous year. And it’s not stopping anytime soon, as monthly usage shows a boost by 20 percent since 2016 got started.

Over five billion emoji-used messages came from clients over the past year. That’s a whole lot of happy faces.

So it makes sense that Grubhub wants to get in on the emoji action, and it’s working, because we’re certainly getting “hangry.”

Samsung Gear VR Takes The ‘Bait!’ From Resolution Games

While much of the buzz from GDC centered around high-end VR hardware like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, it’s clear that mobile VR is where the vast majority of the market will be in the near term. SuperData Research has estimated that the VR market this year will reach $5.1 billion in sales, with most of that coming from mobile VR.

That market potential has attracted some of the best talent, and not surprisingly, some of the top mobile game developers have taken up mobile VR. Resolution Games is one of those studios, co-founded by veteran designer Tommy Palm (one of the developers behind Candy Crush Saga), and has launched its free-to-play VR fishing game, Bait!, on the Oculus VR Store for Samsung Gear VR.

“Like all of our games, the aim of Bait! is to provide perfect content for those new to VR while also providing the sort of compelling and quality gameplay that keeps the most avid gamers, VR enthusiasts and in this case, anglers, hooked for hours,” said Palm, the CEO of Resolution Games. “The Resolution Games team are not only seasoned games industry veterans, but also passionate fishing enthusiasts. And, fishing is something everyone can connect with, which is why Bait! made so much sense to be our first major game project.”

No controllers are needed to enjoy Bait!, which Resolution Games considers of vital importance to VR gaming. This project was designed with the Samsung Gear VR touchpad in mind, making gameplay more accessible and allowing for immediate immersion. “It’s amazing. Bait! had an almost instantaneous relaxation effect. Once you get started and cast your first line, everything else in life disappears and you’re truly in the moment—I bet my pulse even went down,” said Maarten Noyons, founder of IMGA (International Mobile Gaming Awards). “I got the game within minutes, and could have spent hours chasing down all the different species and experiencing the different lakes.”

Tommy PalmSitting down with Tommy Palm at GDC, [a]listdaily got to experience Bait! firsthand using the Samsung Gear VR. One of the great features of VR is that the immersion into a game is immediate, unlike any other platform. That’s especially important with a game like Bait!, where the sense of relaxation is palpable. The game’s simple interface lets you get into fishing right away, and enjoy the relaxing tropical vistas while reeling in some very unusual fish. “A lot of people like to use games as a means to relax, come home from a stressful day and quickly get into a different pulse,” said Palm. “I definitely feel this VR title can be great at doing that.”

The business models for mobile VR have yet to be established. There’s plenty of options to choose from right now, and Resolution Games has chosen to go a familiar route. “This title is a free title and it has in-app purchase,” said Palm. “It’s actually the first VR game to have in-app purchase, outside of Oculus’ own software. I’m very interested in making accessible games, so I really like the fact that people can download something for free and check it out. If we can deliver on that promise of having appealing content that engages them, then we have the opportunity to sell something to them within the game that makes sense.”

Palm isn’t convinced that premium-priced games are the best solution for the VR market. “Even if you do that—ask for $50 up front—they’re not going to know what they’re getting until they bought it,” Palm said. “I think for the consumer, it’s a much better alternative if they can actually go into the game and understand what it is before they make a purchase decision.”

Palm feels there’s room for multiple monetization models. “What business model makes the most sense for the developer depends very much on the game or app,” Palm noted. “Free-to-play has a little bit of a bad rap, especially with hardcore gamers, because they’ve seen a lot of really aggressive monetization. There are definitely great examples of developers having a balanced experience; Hearthstone is a great example.”

The potential for mobile VR seems great, but the exact course ahead is hazy. For now, Samsung’s Gear VR shows just how simple and inexpensive mobile VR can be, while still delivering an engaging experience. Samsung is making a strong effort to help Gear VR become successful by including one for free to everyone who pre-orders a Galaxy S7 smartphone. “To me, I think the Gear really shows how powerful mobile VR can be, but I definitely think there’s room for other players,” Palm said. “This is only for Samsung phones, and the world consists of more phones than that. There is room for more hardware initiatives on mobile VR. We’ll see a lot of interesting players coming into that market. Personally, I’m very curious about what Apple is brewing behind their walls.”

Bait screen

Being one of the first mobile VR games to ship is a useful advantage, but there’s much more to look forward to in mobile VR. “At this point, everybody who’s working VR just wants it to take off and start getting interesting applications out there,” Palm said. “I think games are going to be one of those applications that will help drive the market.”

However, Palm does believe it will take a while for VR games to start turning a profit for publishers. “For us, it’s kind of a long-term bet,” Palm acknowledged. “One of the reasons I’m very interested in mobile VR is that I think that AR is going to be a very interesting technology as well, it’s just a little bit further away. I would say that in order for VR to be mass market it might be three years, and for AR to be big it’s going to be five years or even more.”