Free-to-play gaming is, for better or worse, big business.
The idea is to get you in for free and then entice you with in-game power-ups, cosmetics, and upgrades that you can purchase with in-game currency. You can earn these digital dollars or, of course, you can always buy some with real world cash.
Free-to-play business models exist in games on all platforms including mobile, console, PC and now virtual reality as well. Poker VR for the Oculus-Powered Samsung Gear VR is a free to play VR title. It’s also the highest grossing game in that category on any Oculus device according to the company.
According to Siddiqui:
[At one point] We were the most famous social app on Gear VR out of over 1,000 apps. And also the game…it went on to become the highest grossing free-to-play app on the whole Oculus store.”
Siddiqui says he can’t share exact earnings with us, but did share that Poker VR makes, on average around 50 cents per user. To put that in perspective, League of Legends — one of the most popular online PC games — makes an average of $1.32 per user according to Super Data Research.
This figure, like most other free-to-play revenue breakdowns, is weighted heavily by power users that spend far more than typical players. In the industry, they’re also referred to as whales.
In addition to better-than-average spending habits, customers are also spending significant time in Poker VR.
Saddiqui explained that the average playing time of a Poker VR user is currently 62 minutes, crediting the success of Poker VR with his team’s commitment to developing interesting and unique social features.
“We came in with a lot of assumptions, but we completely rethought our approach towards game design in VR,” Saddiqui said. “The result is Poker VR. We didn’t change any poker dynamics. You know how poker works. But what we did was we built around this a lot of what we now call social background features.”
These social background features are what keep players engaged, entertained and spending according to Saddiqui.
“For example, one of the things that we were seeing in our community is that people really care about cosmetic upgrades,” Saddiqui said. “If they’re present in this universe for so long they care about how they look. They care about their social status, they care about their friends. So one of the features that Poker VR introduced was a very diverse avatar system. There are around 400 million unique customizations options.”
In typical free-to-play fashion, these cosmetics are purchased with in-game gold that can be purchased for real-life currency.
Real-life social connections matter for Poker VR as well. According to Saddiqui “there’s a definite correlation between the more friends you have the more engaged you are with the game.”
Poker VR is available now to download for free on the Oculus Store. It requires a Gear VR headset and a compatible smartphone.