Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Next Big Multiplayer VR Game Title for Meta Quest is from Korea!

The Next Big VR title on Quest from Asia is coming from Korea... again! 

To those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the No. 1 VR Title made in Asia is called Real VR Fishing. Figures are not exactly published, but this game was included in Meta’s Quest 2 launch marketing and is a featured Retail Demo. 

Guess what? The developers behind this successful VR game title are based here in Seoul. 

Although the market for VR is larger in Japan, the most popular title is from Korea. Despite limited support and attention from the big players and VCs the VR community here in Korea has still managed to produce some pretty incredible content since 2016. Sadly, other than Real VR Fishing most of these experiences are not huge commercial successes, but that could be about to change. 

This week another developer is hoping to do it again: Stoic Entertainment.   

Since 2019 I was responsible for SK Telecom’s partnership with Meta to resell Quest 2 (and Oculus Go before that) in Korea. It was a unique partnership, the first of its kind. After sealing the deal I moved to the Business Team at our Mobile Network Operation division (MNO) to execute the business with a couple of colleagues. Our job? Launch Quest 2, promote use cases, and support Ecosystem Development for VR on Quest 2. 

Over the years I used my limited time to meet as many VR developers as I could, to help them refine their ideas and to get reviewed by Meta’s publishing team. Several early-stage products I was able to move to the Oculus Start program, but there were a few bigger projects as well that I have worked on closely including titles with Nexon and Kakao. In the process I have tested hundreds of unreleased and unfinished titles as well as games available for Quest 2. In a short time, it’s safe to say few people in Korea have had as much experience reviewing games for the breakthrough standalone VR device, Quest 2. 

Among all those titles, made here in Korea and around the world, the one that has stood out the most is World War Toons: Tank Arena. 

After nearly two years, it is finally available on Quest 2 this week (if you're reading this before the official launch date you can put it on your wishlist today!). 

I was first introduced to the team by my colleague Dillon Seo, who was one of the 10 co-founders of Oculus when it was acquired by Meta. He recommended I meet them because he saw they had been able to execute technically challenging VR builds that were world-class, in spite of the financial and human resource constraints facing the typical VR game startup in Korea. Not only that, the founders, a couple that had pioneered the industry here, had a passion for building their team and creating opportunities for students who wanted to pioneer the industry with them. They were building high-quality products, while also building a pipeline of talent to grow the industry. Perfect. 

When we first met, there were probably ten reasonably good titles Stoic’s founders were considering for Quest 2. They were mostly smaller games, but all of them were really good. Among them, the early version of Tank Arena stood out for several reasons. 

For anyone who is familiar with VR games, there is one thing you probably noticed. There are not many vehicle games. Why? Driving makes you dizzy. The first thing that impressed me about this title was that I was driving a tank, moving turret and the vehicle itself in opposite directions and barely noticed. Mind you, this was an early version of the game… I expected to last at best 10 minutes before asking to take a break. I played for 30min and only stopped because I needed to make time for another meeting. 

I immediately recommended my counter-part at Meta Korea visit Stoic, and from there we engaged with Meta’s publishing team. Everyone was intrigued, and after a few months the founders had put together a complete proposal highlighting their new creative team, and several patents they’d received around reducing motion sickness in VR. Not only that, the Overwatch-like dynamics and roadmap for DLC (lots of great skins and maps coming soon) was impressive. Their new creative director was able to work with the engineering team to implement substantially better cockpit design with higher graphic detail than any other standalone VR game I had seen (approaching the quality you might see on PCVR titles) using immersive design techniques, creative genius, and by implementing a new engine provided by Meta and Epic — an engine that is technically difficult to implement and to my knowledge is not used yet by many games, and no other vehicle games. 

The team passed the pitch review shortly after that and was the first Korean team that I know of to successfully clear the QA process to launch to the Official Store for Meta Quest. 

Regardless of the hype around metaverse, the fact is the Video Game market is cooling. The CAGR is getting smaller and will be between 5-10% at best for the next few years. Streaming received a lot of press in previous years, but even Xbox (the most innovative among streaming options because of the cross-platform availability) doesn’t foresee it growing beyond 15% of revenue. 

However, within that industry VR is booming. Newzoo estimates VR Games will see a 44% CAGR through 2030. It’s an important growth segment for gaming, and since Korea is a top five market for video games, for Korean game developers and investors too. Fortunately, there are great titles emerging now from Korea and with the right capital support the companies building them can ride this new consumer wave and take the creative potential of Korea into the next generation of Video Games. 

I hope Stoic’s new game World War Toons: Tank Arena (WWTTA) will be wildly successful in the coming months, and that it will usher in a new era of investment in VR Games in Korea providing a much-needed spark to an industry that has become saturated and comfortable with incremental improvements to graphics or storytelling, rather than game-changing technology. 

It’s time for the next big thing in gaming, it’s time for VR Gaming! 

Check out the WWTTA launch trailer below!