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.”