Having attended numerous video game conventions here in the Bay Area, I’ve had a front row seat to the evolution of virtual reality gaming.
At GDC 2017, Facebook and Sony had a massive show of force on the Expo floor while the only good game on the market was Resident Evil 7. Flash forward to VRDC 2017 in September and I’m playing Fallout 4 along with Doom in VR. Then several months later, I’m playing several games of great quality at Oculus Connect 4.
It’s then 2018 and VR technology has improved even more so than I could imagine. The tipping point came at Oculus Connect 5 when the highly anticipated Oculus Quest was unveiled. After demoing it for several hours, I’m convinced that it will the VR game changer that so many have hoped for.
Yet when sharing this with most gamers, they are quick to dismiss it as another fad that should have died away. This has been a conversation I’ve had at mixers, fan conventions and sometime panels. While wrong with the facts, there is a reason for this misconception and it has everything to do with how poorly VR developers has been marketed.
Most studios have been more focused on promoting their work at either industry conferences or major fan conventions while forsaking the local conventions. In theory; going to major convention will allow VR developers to showcase their work to a large audience. They will also have a chance to get in contact with media outlets and hopefully get the attention of an industry leader.
In practice; major fan conventions have way too many people to the point that LineCon becomes the norm. Next there is the intense competition from AAA developers showcasing one of the most highly anticipated game of the year. Finally one will have to look at the financial burden of going to such events.
It’s also because of this marketing strategy that has perpetuated the myth of VR gaming being fad. When studios are only showcasing their work at major events, it gives the false appeal that VR is only a novelty.
On the other hand; local conventions could give studios a better opportunity to showcase their work. Small along with mid-sized conventions are more flexible with how you can promote your game. Besides having a booth, the studio may be asked to host a panel or organize a tournament around the game.
In regards to the audience size; these conventions could bring in 1,000 to 4,000 attendees. Those numbers may not be impressive compared to E3 or PAX, but there is an advantage to the size. For starters, LineCon will not be a problem. Also a good percentage of the attendees will be close with each other, allowing word of mouth to spread. These events will not get the attention of major media outlets but they will be covered by independent outlets.
Let us not forget how cost effective it will be to attend a local convention over a major one. The average convention in the Bay Area is going to charge at most $1000 for a good booth but the price could be negotiable. Also a good chunk of the traveling cost has been eliminated by staying local.
There is a lot of potential in the rise of VR gaming but studios will continue to feed into the myth of it being a fad if they gamble on major conventions. There is a rich opportunity for studios to showcase their work at local conventions and kill the myth.