Mobio Talks within the framework of White Nights Moscow 2016, which took place on October 11-12, took several interviews with the speakers of the conference. Today we publish a conversation between Mobio Executive Director Sergey Konovalov and Andrey Ivashentsev, Chief Innovation Officer at Game Insight.
Why are you actively promoting HoloLens? Do you believe in games based on augmented reality technology the most?
One can only guess here, no one will give an accurate forecast. There is a virtual reality market in which millions of dollars are invested, there are ready-made serial projects (Oculus Rift, Vive, there will be a Daydream platform from Google). There are developers, a desire to develop and huge investments, plus, now everyone is striving there.
The applicability of HoloLens from the point of view of games is an interesting question, but we see only the first generation of such wearable devices that allow us to get a high—quality picture. How this market will develop further, we cannot guess. Maybe it will end with a chip in the brain or a lens that will finish drawing and broadcasting the picture on its own.
Forecasts are a thankless task, but in this case your opinion and experience are interesting.
If we talk about augmented reality in Windows Holographic, the mixed reality format of Microsoft technology, then it is interesting to be able to link virtual objects to the real world. However, there are a number of limitations: you see a picture living in the environment in which you are now. You can’t draw a completely invented illusory world and put a player there. This can be done using VR. These are two different concepts, I can’t say that I believe in something more. I use all possible helmets that can be found, and I assess the prospect differently in terms of market, technology and development in the future.
I like Windows Holographic as a platform, there were no such products before. If we remember 1997 and 1995, when there was a boom in VR, it was really cool. No one knew anything about AR, there were no sensors for tracking space, nor the ability to dynamically draw a picture. Everyone understood that if you put your head in the monitor, you will get a cool version of full immersion, and when you need a partial immersion, this is just augmented reality.
From the point of view of VR games, it’s easier. You invented, made and released. When making a game using AR, you need to understand where a person is and adjust to his entire environment so that he is interested and comfortable to play. The complexity, approaches and number of devices for these two directions in the markets are different.
How far do you think Russia lags behind the United States in terms of penetration of user experience, devices and technologies in this area?
About as much as Russia lags behind in everything else related to computer equipment. The main devices that enter the market globally, we have a week later. HoloLens-type devices can only be purchased in the USA and Canada for a number of reasons. The penetration of technologies always depends on how much the audience and the manufacturer are ready to fill in certain segments of consumption. Due to the cost of entering VR, Russia is in a losing position – due to the current exchange rate and, in general, the level of computer penetration into life. Not everyone has a powerful gaming computer, extra money for a helmet and a productive Android smartphone or iPhone.
What can become a point for explosive growth?
There is such a theory as diffusion of innovations. It provides a basic methodology for evaluating the entry of any technology into the market. It all starts with a handful of innovators who use the product because it’s fun. Over time, the number of users begins to grow: early adopters are the first to start using the technology. Next comes early majority — a mass segment of beginners, then late majority — slowly catching up with the majority, and then laggards, who use the technology last or never use it. You can see this trend on the example of any platform and technology. It is impossible to reliably predict that we will have an explosive growth of any product, because some technologies may simply not go beyond the first stage, will not take root.
Where should it all start? From helmets or content. And consumers don’t have helmets. Why? Because there is not the right amount of content. There is no content because there are no helmets. The problem is chicken or egg, and people keep waiting. Millions of dollars are being invested now in order to have both in abundance on the market. So sooner or later everything should start to swing just because of the amount of funds already invested.
What platform or technology should be developed for to earn a lot of money?
The problem is that you can’t just do something cool and make a lot of money. This happens, but usually there is painstaking work, trial and error behind it. Indie developers need to try different approaches, platforms, concepts, and only after some time, after some experiments fail and some do not, they will have an understanding of what they can achieve success in.
If you want to make games for virtual reality, you need to understand what their key difference is from games for augmented reality or from ordinary games. As a rule, people change the camera from one eye, (conditionally, from a flat screen) to a camera for two eyes, make an outline under the lenses and launch. They are also figuring out how to manage all this. But this is not all that needs to be done. We have a lot of people with Unity who know how to add a camera for two eyes under Cardboard, but they can’t make a good game, and one without the other doesn’t make sense.
Is it worth doing it now, or maybe, on the contrary, it is better to invest in those markets that are already developed?
Investments in the future either pay off with interest, or do not pay off at all. If we look at many VR projects that are currently being developed, and at the huge number of startups that exist in the field of VR and AR, many of them will fail because they will not reach their target audience, the right level of quality, or a competitor will do the same, but faster and cooler.
You touched on the topic of the comfort of using helmets. What do you think has more weight: the technology of the helmet itself or the gameplay?
You can make a terrible game for the most beautiful helmet in the world, and a wonderful game for a terrible helmet. It all depends on the amount of effort and introductory.
Now, with the advent of Vive, when it is possible to track your own hands with the help of a touch controller, adaptation to VR is accelerated three times. You can’t make a space epic like EVE: Valkyrie, which will work on a cheap model in the phone: there will be a different level of immersion, respectively, a different quality of perception.
We can say that development is the lot of large companies with huge budgets, because there are greater requirements for the quality of the picture, for graphics, than, for example, for mobile?
Large companies have more opportunities and resources to experiment. If we understand that experiments with VR may not pay off, then the indie development team that will spend time, effort and money to make a cool game (which will not be as cool as they think) may be very upset. The same investments for a large company that has a portfolio of projects and can afford these experiments will cost less blood.
But if you have a brilliant idea, a good team and an understanding that the project will be in demand and you will be able to sell it, you make it and launch it.
Do you think Pokémon GO is about technology or about a good launch time and marketing?
It is always important to choose a good launch time so that the game earns many billions of dollars.
But there is also the presence of a unique technology: Pokémon GO is made on the basis of the successful Ingress AR game. In general, Niantic has an interesting history, including because part of the team previously worked on Google maps. They understand what geo-positioning is, and how this topic can be played correctly.
Well, in addition, you need the right brand choice: the platform has an extremely popular IP Pokemon. They are known all over the world, so the idea of the game is clear to most people under 35. Younger players also quickly understand the setting, as the Pokemon franchise is actively used around the world.
The weight of the brand and the character is quite high.
There are several factors at once that coincided at one moment. But an AR-game without Pokemon, Ingress, earns orders of magnitude less. Although technologically it is more interesting for a hardcore player who wants more different mechanics, and not just collect Pokemon.
Now many people are thinking how to make a game similar in efficiency and are trying to find the necessary combination of components. For example, the Chinese launched a Pokémon GO clone for the Chinese domestic market within a few weeks. Pokemon were originally invented in Japan, and China has its own similar promoted monsters for the local market, which were used in the cloned game. The Chinese are great at doing such things, and now the game’s revenues are estimated in millions of dollars.