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Apple’s Vision Pro leaves game developers with a dilemma
October 31, 2023
Game developers were left with more questions than answers when Apple unveiled Vision Pro and visionOS to the world earlier this year, with little gaming content seen in the announcement. Apple’s most recent ‘Wonderlust’ event once again treated us to a brief insight into its gaming plans, but included some exciting updates. The imminent arrival of top-tier console games to the iPhone, marks a significant departure from the days when mobile gaming was considered a secondary endeavor for the tech giant.
With Vision Pro’s 2024 launch date approaching, a roadmap confirmed by CEO Tim Cook, and Apple's expansion into enabling true cross-platform gaming experiences seemingly imminent, it’s inevitable that Vision Pro and visionOS will be on the minds of game studios big and small right now. So what should they be considering?
To wait and see, or to not wait and see?
The high price tag and short battery life of the Vision Pro could lead brands and game studios to question whether it is worth developing for visionOS yet, or whether they should wait until prices come down and performance is proven. But the risk of taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach is they could miss out on a prime opportunity for user acquisition.
Game developers must weigh up their options carefully. With the Vision Pro not due to come to market until next year, there’s time for them to develop titles for this new platform. Adapting an existing mobile game for Vision Pro is a realistic option too, and comes with a relatively low cost of entry for developers. Early movers that have their games ready for launch will be in a good position to grow a user base while competition is at a minimum. Once visionOS has established itself – which seems inevitable – organic discovery is likely to become much harder with the number of apps increasing.
With the emergence of the cross-platform gamer – who expects to play anything they want, anywhere they want – it feels like not being involved with visionOS from the very start could be a costly mistake. So a key question developers must answer is how they take advantage of the interactive features that the Vision Pro enables. Developers and game studios need to consider whether they adapt the iOS version for the new platform, or create something that is more specifically geared towards the Vision Pro, involving players using physical gestures to move blocks or collect gems, for instance.
Questions over monetisation and measurement
In terms of monetization, the immersive nature of the Vision Pro and visionOS open up a world of opportunities for advertising. There’s real room for innovation; simply porting across iOS ads would come across as clumsy in such an intimate environment. Hopefully, brand advertisers will take a more interactive, engaging approach on visionOS. Those developers that think hard about how to build engaging in-game advertising facilities could surprise and delight players.
For example, imagine a virtual world that features billboards within the gaming environment. When the player focuses on these billboards, they see a playable ad for another game that they can interact with for a few moments before going back to the original game. That’s the kind of thing that could prove to be a winner; but if users encounter the same old ads that they’ve seen before on iOS, they’re likely to find the experience frustrating and disconcerting.
While the latest iPhone boasts a new, professional-class graphics processor, offering up to a 20% speed boost that opens the door to "completely new experiences”, we don’t know exactly what Apple’s plans for games on visionOS are. It could decide to carefully manage all content that will be available on the visionOS App Store, ensuring that it matches up to the high quality of the hardware and OS. For example, if it decides that all games on the platform have to run through Apple Arcade – an ad-free environment – it would limit the opportunities available to game developers.
There’s also the issue of measurement to consider. While Apple’s new platform potentially creates an opportunity for developers to increase revenue while exploring new immersive gaming experiences, visionOS is yet another siloed platform for brands to measure. It is expected that attribution on visionOS will work in the same way as on other platforms; and for developers that want to capture a complete picture of the customer journey and maximise lifetime value across devices and platforms this data is crucial for driving growth. Effective measurement is vital for app developers that want to create experiences that really move the needle and exploit the full potential of new platforms and devices, so they should carefully consider the KPIs they use.
Early movers to visionOS will reap the rewards
In my view, there’s every reason to believe that the Vision Pro will be a great success. Apple has a habit of entering a market at just the right time. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player but it came to define the whole category. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone but it was streets ahead of the competition when it launched in 2007. And the iPad wasn’t the first tablet – remember the Windows Tablet PCs of 2003? – but again, it proved to be a triumph.
And all of the above devices show that consumers are willing to pay premium prices for groundbreaking technology and design. Apple's innovative technology and sophisticated design, along with its ecosystem of services, shifted the landscape in both the portable music player and mobile phone markets. We expect sales of the Vision Pro to be strong from launch, while the whole of the VR market is likely to change beyond all recognition.
What’s crystal clear is that Vision Pro and visionOS can enable brands to engage with consumers in the most intimate and immersive way, creating powerful emotional connections and potentially driving significantly higher customer lifetime value. Forward-looking developers should think hard about how they can use this opportunity to create market-leading, monetizable experiences for this new platform.
By Adam Smart, director of product - gaming, AppsFlyer