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  • How Gorilla Tag got 760K players in a single day, Derby's VR Baseball Theme Park, and the future of spatial Creators

How Gorilla Tag got 760K players in a single day, Derby's VR Baseball Theme Park, and the future of spatial Creators

Welcome to Creator 3×3!

Here are 3 Creator facts from the past, 3 notes on the present, and 3 thoughts about the future of the content economy...

3 FACTS FROM THE PAST

I.

One year ago 760,000 monkeys chased each other around a snowy Christmas jungle.

Those monkeys were people.

And then those people spent $26 million dollars.

Gorilla Tag is free-to-play VR game with a novel movement mechanic that basically works like… well… a gorilla running.

Yea, they nailed that.

Created by LemmingVR and uploaded to SideQuest in early 2022, Gorilla Tag built its initial momentum outside of traditional launch channels (#gorillatag has 9.5B views right now on TikTok), and launched on Quest store that same year.

Gorilla Tag absolutely crushed it that Christmas.

They had 760K+ players on Christmas Day, reached 2.3 million monthly active users, and as of January 2023 had already earned $26M in revenue from in-app purchases.

But videogames are a tough business - especially when talking about longevity.

Yet the combination of a genuinely fun game, an aggressive software update cadence, and a budding universe of mostly organic, cross-platform content is keeping the game on players’ headsets.

I find this fascinating.

I’m not a VR maximalist at all (yet), but I’m generally an optimist about the future and always prefer to look at what the data is saying.

With VR games and content I have (up until now) mostly just nodded along to the “common knowledge” I heard in tech news reporting that “VR is dead” or “it’s never going to work” and “it was doomed from the start”.

But what’s the data saying?

Definitive answers are always tricky, but searches for Gorilla Tag are at an all time high right now and that’s pretty interesting.

Gorilla Tag Search Interest over time.

(Source)

​II.

Modern attempts at extending reality with VR and AR devices really began about 10+ years ago.

Magic Leap, Microsoft’s Hololens, Google Glass, PlayStation’s VR, Snap, and Oculus (later acquired by Meta) all started their product research efforts in the early 2010’s and released their first live products from 2016 onward.

Pretty much all of these efforts failed to catch on in a significant way despite lots of really capable tech companies spending gobs of money on development.

If you’ve ever tried VR, there’s zero doubt that there’s something magical about experiences like flying in zero G, but it’s worth exploring why it hasn’t hit the mainstream yet.

Really really ridiculously smart people like Matthew Ball (former Head of Strategy for Amazon Studios) think and talk about this problem a lot.

To him, the conversation ultimately boils down to “hardware is really hard” and “our expectations aren’t quite reasonable”.

Matthew uses GPS to explain how to pragmatically think about what VR/XR devices will eventually do for us.

As a mental model for “Why VR?”, I think it’s pretty solid.

(Source)

III.

By some metrics, VR has actually hit with users.

Beat Saber has been around for 6 years and it’s still one of the most incredible entry level VR experiences.

It’s also made the team (and Meta who acquired it in 2019) a cumulative $225 million+, is regularly still in Top VR Games lists, and has millions of active players.

And that revenue number is about 18 months out of date so it’s probably much higher now.

When VR hits, it hits hard.

Sounds like the creator economy, huh.

(Source)

3 NOTES ON THE PRESENT

I.

The secret to blowing up on TikTok is becoming a virtual hat.

@throwbackvr

How to hit the blimp in Derby! #derbyvr #vr #virtualreality #baseball #applab #metaquest #metaquest2 #gamedev #homerun #blimp #

At least…

that’s what you might think when ThrowBack Studios shows up in your feed.

They’re the makers of Derby.

They’ve gone from from 4K to 182K followers on TikTok this past year, just started their initial growth spurts on other platforms, and have hundreds of thousands of players hitting dingers regularly in their game.

At first glance, they’re an incredibly engaging, free-to-play baseball batting cage simulator.

But after chatting with founder Jordan Kutzer about his vision, it’s super clear Throwback Studios is building something much more interesting than this already pretty neat (and successful) thing.

They want to make the first infinite content, VR theme park.

Videos will be part of it, but by far the most important content at the park is the space you’re in and the world you’re interacting with.

That world will be co-created with creator-players shaping the environment, components, and ways in which they want to enjoy the game-park.

And everything in the game-park is perfectly capturable and sharable by the device you’re already wearing to play the game.

A still from their in-game livestream podcast

It’s a bold vision and I love it.

To be completely honest, I’ve only just begun to mentally digest the brain-bending ramifications of VR content creation.

The potential is crazy and I’m certainly watching (and playing) whatever Throwback Studios comes up with next.

(Source)

II.

Lebron is thinking about streaming.

Imagine getting dunked on in NBA 2K by King James playing as himself.

I’m here for it.

(Source)

III.

Vision Pro is coming (maybe this month).

It’s really expensive (~$3500).

But Apple has a voracious, high-purchasing-power fanbase and a huge chunk of them will buy whatever Apple releases that year.

The same person who would have never in a million years bought a VR headset to play games might spend a Hermes handbag’s amount of dollars on the Vision Pro in just a few weeks.

That feels important.

3 THOUGHTS FOR THE FUTURE

I.

Content in VR is already wild.

@framerategg

how could he kill super shaggy like that 😭 [🕹️ @benbuttv ] #vr #shaggy #vrgame #gaming #framerate

But the potential for content in VR (and AR) is staggering.

Imagine a podcast host sitting on your own couch.

We aren’t ready for that level of engaging.

Enterprising Creators already use VR to make stuff that boggles the minds of their audiences.

Cheaper headsets and cheaper recording equipment are making this opportunity more accessible to more Creators than ever before.

All of the problems we talked about earlier (hardware, distribution, improving vs replacing existing experiences, etc) still very much apply, but it’s worth revisiting the thought experiment of “what content would I even make in VR?” in the context of a rapidly changing landscape of audience consumption behavior.

(Source)

​II.

Kids today understand platform ad models.

Or rather, they sort of understand that platforms sometimes pay Creators for their content.

They also naturally associate “lots of followers” with “being rich” (a lot of adults do this too btw).

We both know that isn’t necessarily the case, but in VR this is especially untrue for game developers who moonlight as Creators to distribute their games.

Kids assume Meta is footing the bill for their favorite game just because it’s free to play in the Meta Quest store!

They have no idea that Meta actually takes 30% of the money from every sale game developers make on in-App purchases and that might be their only source of revenue.

So the kids ask the developers for more and more stuff for free by default.

This is a crucial point for all builder-creators out there.

Your users often don’t understand how you earn your income and we’ll have to navigate that carefully as we try to grow the things we’re spending all of those blood, sweat, and tears on.

(Source)

III.

I’m genuinely excited by the potential of VR and AR.

After the Vision Pro was announced, I wrote this short story to imagine what it might be like.

This excerpt shares some of the wonder I think we’ll have at our fingertips eventually.

What we create this year might soon live in that world.

Creating natively for that world is worth thinking about.

VR is a strange beast.

It feels like magic when it hits and leaves you deflated (and slightly nauseous) when it misses.

And when I say that out loud... it sorta sounds like creating content doesn’t it?

I’m not quite sure how it’s going to happen, but I think with:

  • the Vision Pro launch

  • Meta continuing to expand it’s Quest headset empire

  • Algorithms driving more competition for Creators

We’ll see a boom in both VR-native content and content about VR stuff by the end of 2024. 🫡

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See you next week,

p.s. you can shoot yourself in the face in VR and it’s as goofy as it sounds.

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