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VR Visionaries #1: Tommy Palm, CEO, Resolution Games
Tommy Palm is the CEO of Resolution Games, a company he set up after many successful years at King, to create virtual reality focused games. Their title Bait! passed half a million downloads in June 2016, and continues to grow.
Tell us a bit about Resolution and why you’re so excited about VR
We founded the company in the beginning of last year – 2015. I saw the Samsung Gear VR for the first time in November 2014. For a long time I had been excited about the prospect of virtual reality, but this is the first time I really saw first-hand what the consumers would see in the device. With an attractive price point and pretty decent hardware specifications, I knew I could achieve something with a good team, and we could make great VR games.
For me that kicked it off. After that I took the step to move from King and form a company that would concentrate on making games for VR.
The last year has been really exciting; having the opportunity to play around and see what we could do with games for mobile VR.
Since then I have gained an understanding of how big an opportunity virtual reality could be. One of the reasons I can see VR becoming so big is the development of Augmented Reality. AR is a very exciting sister technology on its way, albeit a little bit further away than VR.
Do you think that mobile or tethered VR will ultimately win out for gaming?
I see mobile VR and tethered VR as two rather similar markets. In the long run I can see a future where the two will merge. We’re already seeing mobile game development growing at an incredible rate when it comes to performance. However right now both tethered VR and mobile VR are definitely on two different tracks.
On the tethered side you have much better positioning, as well as 3D inputs which is game changing. On the other hand I like the attractive price point of mobile VR, and I think we will see extremely interesting and rapid development with platforms like Daydream from Google representing the next step on this VR journey.
Will platforms like Daydream represent a convergence of mobile VR and tethered VR?
Whilst Daydream is going to be a big step forward for VR, I think the convergence of mobile and tethered VR is much further down the line. Looking at the last two years of development it’s difficult to envision a short or even medium term future where the two will be anything other than separate distribution networks.
Looking beyond gaming, do you see some killer VR apps on the market?
There are definitely some interesting use cases for VR other than gaming.
One area I find really interesting when it comes to the application of VR is within education. Education is so exciting for the very simple fact that every other medium comes with many more layers of abstraction. For example if you read a book then you have to be very active and translate what the words actually mean, whereas in VR you truly are experiencing something. That immersion and direct experience has a big impact on memory.
Where are you seeing the biggest innovations in VR gaming?
I’ve seen some really cool apps for mobile VR, but I have to say that what you can experience on HTC Vive is the most impressive at this point. With room-scale VR and the ability to actively use your hands, it really is impressive.
One of the most convincing apps I would like to mention is the Toybox Demo on the Oculus Rift. Toybox showed how incredibly accessible and fun it can be just to play around with a friend in virtual reality; even when you really aren’t doing much.
Multiplayer is currently a bit of a problem for VR because there are relatively few VR headsets on the market – it’s hard to handle multiplayer at this early stage whilst retaining the confidence that you’ll find a user base.
At the same time, the market seems to be convinced by VR. The technology is absolutely fascinating and the install figures seem to be reflecting that. You can look at VR a little bit like with the mobile phone – there wasn’t really a reason to be the first subscriber to the mobile phone. However once more and more people adopted the technology, it snowballed.
I truly believe that the HTC Vive is a fantastic system, but it really has some barriers to overcome with the consumer. With the Vive you have to dedicate space so that you can use it, which is very problematic.
Where you currently have technology within the tethered VR units that isn’t available for mobile VR, I would hope to see the same type of technology moving to mobile. It’s only a matter of time before we begin to see good position tracking and 3D interfaces for mobile VR.
What will the VR games market look like in 2 years?
VR is going to take time. Remember, 2016 is only really the first year that we actually have consumer headsets on the market. It will probably take between two and three years before we have a large enough user base for companies to make significant revenues with VR games.
Eventually we will see a lot of actors coming into the market and making games because VR really does add a lot of benefits to the gameplay experience – with VR you have an unparalleled feeling of presence and immersion.
It’s also very difficult to make great games for VR, so I would argue the market will comprise of specialists, as opposed to mobile gaming in general which has become a bit commoditised to a certain extent.
What projects are you currently working on?
About two or three months ago we released our first VR game – Bait! – which is a fishing adventure game for Samsung Gear VR. We’ve also announced that we’re working on a title for Daydream called Wonderglade.
At Resolution Games we have two teams working on projects at any one time. There is some collaboration between the teams but mostly we try to keep teams small and independent so they can work on their products undisturbed.
This is something that I’ve always personally felt that you can get most success out of game making – to be few enough that you can sit in one room and discuss things among one another.
What are you going to be bringing to the VRX event in San Francisco later this year?
VRX is an excellent opportunity to meet with other people in the industry and see what they are working on. These days there isn’t so much competition – everyone has a very friendly interest in becoming successful.
I’ll be bringing along some of the learnings from our research and development teams, especially what we’ve found has worked well, plus what we’ve found hasn’t worked as we have been exploring VR over the past year or so.
Tommy Palm is speaking at the VRX 2016 coming up in San Francisco on December 7-8 alongside a huge range of senior business leaders from across gaming, consumer entertainment, brands and enterprise. For more information, head to http://vr-intelligence.com/usa/