Virtual Reality in Gaming: What Marketers Need to Know

Harnessing cutting-edge technology to deliver 3D graphics and a hyper-realistic experience, virtual reality (VR) and gaming appears to be a match made in heaven. But getting buy-in has been tricky as questions around consumer awareness, content availability, technology adoption and costs abound. However, as these concerns are addressed, we can expect to see the sector pick up momentum.

Want insights on the latest VR tech shaking up the gaming industry? Make sure to download our latest Gaming Marketing 2020 report. 

Bringing VR to the mainstream

The development of virtual reality headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and more recently Oculus Quest, has certainly helped bring VR into the everyday, while PlayStation, Nintendo and Valve are all helping to shrug off its niche categorisation. You only have to look at the hype surrounding the 28 February 2020 release date of Marvel’s Iron Man, which will be available on PSVR, to see that the consumer appetite is there. At the same time, barriers to entry are being removed thanks to low-cost headsets, like the Google Cardboard. It’s estimated the global VR gaming market will be worth $22.9B by the end of 2020 (source: Statista). 

In 2019, VR gaming got big. In March 2019, Beat Saber was the first VR title to sell over 1M copies in under a year, while publishers Superhot Team announced they made more revenue from their VR than non-VR titles. 

Then, in December 2019, Leeds-based independent virtual reality developer XR Games secured a £1.5M investment, having previously worked with Sony Picture Virtual Reality and Rovio Entertainment on VR console games, including The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure – a sure sign of support for VR’s bright future. 

However, it’s worth noting that naysayers will say the graphics still have a long way to go, and that the increased adoption of bandwidth-intensive VR applications will put a strain on current internet speeds. 

Related Read: AR in Marketing: The Latest and Greatest

Taking us to infinity and beyond 

Meet the tech industry’s new favourite buzzword: extended reality (XR), which collectively covers augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies. It’s been the darling of developers for years, and while it has previously been written off by advertisers as a purely creative endeavour, brands are starting to explore its possibilities.

For example, outside of the gaming sector, 360° video gives prospective passengers a sense of what it would be like to travel with Cathay Pacific, increasing awareness by 29% and brand favourability by 25% (source: Omnivirt). 

Extended reality technologies are clearly an immersive medium that allow brands to engage with audiences, but what does this mean for the gaming industry and what might a native VR ad format look like?

Lose yourself in the moment

Enabling players to experience video games in a way that truly makes them feel like they are part of the action is a long-held dream of developers. Pokémon GO might have given gamers a compelling reason to reach for their iPhone and Android devices in 2016, but recent years have brought us a lot more sophisticated offerings that are enhancing user engagement and boosting attraction and retention.

Average time spent on a VR gaming session in 2018:

  • 49 minutes on Sony PlayStation VR 
  • 42 minutes on Oculus Rift VR headset
  • 24.5 minutes on Google Cardboard (source: Statista)

First-person shooter Superhot has come a long way since it started out as a browser-based demo in 2013. It’s found its natural home on VR headsets, where it makes the most of 360° tracking by having enemies attack players from all sides. Meanwhile, the high production values and freedom of movement offered by Twisted Pixel’s spy action game Defector has already established itself as a firm favourite. Then there was 2019’s hotly anticipated release of No Man’s Sky by Hello Games, which grabbed the attention of gamers around the world who were looking to find out more about VR’s capabilities. 

From solo to social 

Wearing a headset might make some people think VR gaming is a solo pursuit that doesn’t allow players to communicate with others inside the same game, but that’s all changing. Bringing a social element to the scene, developers are designing games that make it possible to meet in a virtual space. 

Social networking giant Facebook recently unveiled its plans for Horizon, a social VR world that’s coming to Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform in 2020. On their blog, they refer to the move as: “a culmination of what we’ve learned so far about virtual spaces and communities, Horizon is the first step into an ever-expanding world of connection and exploration where anything becomes possible” (source: Oculus). 

Similarly, Epic Games plan to add a cross-platform voice chat feature to Fortnite to encourage in-game communication between players following their acquisition of Houseparty. Both could have huge implications for the way people interact with each other – and potentially brands – in the future.

Related Read: Gaming Marketing: The Social Media Game Plan

We’re not going to deny that VR has been a long time in the making, but momentum is building. With 5G will come super-fast speeds and stable connections, which will more than likely signal the beginning of VR’s golden era. For more insights and predictions in gaming marketing, download our Gaming Marketing 2020 report. 

Freedman International
Freedman International profile picture

Relevant Articles


Subscribe to our content

Want to stay tuned to the latest global marketing news and have access to exclusive content and events?
Easy, just fill out the form below.

Subscribe to our content

Want to stay tuned to the latest global marketing news and have access to exclusive content and events?
Easy, just fill out the form below.