When the first iPhone came out, Steve Jobs uttered words that would go down in history. "Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone,". And he went on to detail the processing capabilities, futuristic design and how it would be like the iPod, but not once in his initial statement did he mention how the iPhone would change the future of gaming.

With the much-anticipated announcement of Apple’s new Vision Pro headset and its immersive features, we believe VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) gaming will also significantly boost growth. Apple has defined new technology for years, so entering this market could mean new mainstream investments. Will businesses make billions off of Vision Pro by getting in early? We think so!

In this blog, we will delve into how Apple as a company has to lead the way for emerging technology in gaming, how the Vision Pro will be the start of a new revitalisation of interactive, immersive experiences, and how businesses should be looking at this new announcement as a rare opportunity to launch the next billion dollar idea.

Why should you care about Vision Pro?

At this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference run by Apple, the show's star was the new Apple Vision Pro immersive headset. Although the concept of VR/AR headsets is not new to most, Apple’s technology has a few things that are generating a lot of buzz. One point that we think encapsulates how Apple is redefining the AR and VR industries is the term Spatial Computing.

What is Spatial Computing?

In 2003, Simon Greenwold, a student at MIT, defined Spatial Computing as a "human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates references to real objects and spaces"—in simpler terms, using digital technology to make computers blend the digital and physical in a three-dimensional world using AR, VR, and MR (Mixed Reality). For the Apple Vision Pro, this allows the AR/VR headset to blend natural spaces with simulated 3D elements seamlessly. The technology also has integrated infrared cameras that allow users to navigate through sight, sound and gestures. These new forms of interaction are leaps and bounds beyond the competition and allow for many new experiences and game mechanics.

An example of what spatial computing might look like

This opens up a whole new world of immersive interactive gaming. Apple entering the market means the ecosystem is mature, and the technology will likely be mainstream soon. Most people love and will invest in Apple products for their sleek design, fantastic user experience, and user-centric technology. Their product launches generate unparalleled buzz online and in the tech world, which usually means the rest of the tech industry follows suit. This could mean we will see similar products from brands like Oculus and Vive. 

The Vision Pro is a golden business opportunity

Apple is one of the most popular brands in history, and billions of people around the globe use its products. With a proven track record of launching successful new products, there will likely be a significant audience for the Vision Pro in the future. 

As we said before, when the first iPhone was announced, there was no mention of it being used for gaming. Regardless, the iPhone has had huge successes within the gaming industry, bringing in the majority of revenue for mobile game developers. 25% of apps downloaded on the iOS store are games, but an incredible 74 cents of every dollar earned by the App Store was spent on mobile gaming.

What does it mean to be an early mover?

App stores often have little competition when a new platform is released. This means there is a good chance of more people seeing and downloading your game. Early movers will be able to shape the market for new gaming technology. Being an early mover and establishing your presence on a new platform could give you a significant advantage over potential competitors in the long run.

The disadvantages of being an early mover usually come from needing to innovate and find what works in this new market. Being on the platform early does not guarantee business success. Instead of just moving early, creating a standout product is also important. In this case, we can reference other VR and AR games for design inspiration to ensure we create experiences that resonate with the audience.

How Beat Saber dominated the VR market

For example, Beat Saber was developed for the VR headset and launched within 2 years of the release of the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive. An easy-to-learn but a challenging rhythm-based game that showed potential sceptics of the true nature of VR games. It is still among the top downloaded VR games, generating over $255 million in lifetime revenue

Premium vs. F2P monetisation models in games

An interesting observation of the early mover business opportunity is how the prominent monetisation model shifts as a platform matures. There are two main video game monetisation models - Premium and Free–to-play (with microtransactions). Premium purchase models are where players pay a one-time fee to access the full game. Free-to-play (F2P) models are when players can access the game for free, but additional features or content can be purchased in-game.

There will likely be a window in which premium pricing will dominate the Vision Pro app store, similar to what was seen on the mobile app stores. Creating premium games can be less expensive than F2P, as you can focus on creating small, impactful experiences that demonstrate the new features of the technology. In the early stages of the Vision Pro store, many people will look for novel experiences showcasing what the headset can do. Though F2P is a viable approach that generally brings in larger revenues, it can require a much larger investment to get the business model to work effectively.

Overall, Apple's reputation in the modern technology world, the gaming industry's success on its platform, and the potential of the Vision Pro headset suggest a promising future. Early movers can benefit from the opportunity to shape the market, but they must also focus on creating innovative and engaging experiences to stand out in the long term.

How to develop games for the Vision Pro

Making VR and AR games is a similar process to other forms of game development. It involves various disciplines, including game design, programming, art asset creation, and audio production. Games can be built using various tools, but Apple has partnered with Unity to use their technology, one of the most popular game engines. Unity is a cross-platform game engine that allows developers to create games for various platforms, including the Vision Pro.

While the process is similar to developing an app, game development is about creating an experience or telling a story for the player to immerse themselves into. Successful game development requires that the experience is engaging enough that players will happily invest time and money to enjoy it. 

The game design and development stages and the timeline depend on the project's scope. Our easy-to-follow guide shows the stages of game development as linear and possibly rigid steps; however, the process is iterative, with constant changes to the design to refine the player experience.

An infographic for the stages of game development and timeline

Some key functions of game development include:

  • Game design: This is the process of creating a game's rules, mechanics, and story. It is one of the most critical aspects of game development, as it determines how the game will play and feel.
  • Programming: This is creating the code that powers the game. The programming is responsible for everything from the game's logic to how graphics are displayed.
  • Art: This is the process of creating the graphics and assets for the game. This includes everything from the characters and environments to the UI and menus.
  • Audio: This is the process of creating the sound effects and music for the game. It is essential for creating an immersive and engaging experience.

Making games for the Vision OS will heavily feature a similar iOS structure as other apps and games released on the app store. It is a well-known trend that using Apple’s design language in your apps and games will help get your project featured, so it is worth paying attention to their standards. Apple has released a beta version of a development package that they will release to potential clients and developers that will feature Swift UI

Swift UI will define apps made in Vision OS and is Apple’s primary user interface. It features three main scenes that devs can build in - Windows, Spaces and Volumes. This means apps will start in a 2.5D space and can be opened into a more comprehensive AR or fully immersive VR space. 

An example of how development will be for the Vision Pro

As we mentioned above, Apple has partnered with Unity, which will make it easier for developers to create games for the Vision Pro headset and give them access to Apple's powerful hardware and software platforms. There are plenty of tutorials online for working with Unity if you want to use that as a jumping-off point, with AR and VR tutorials, particularly helpful. Alternatively, if you are looking for a development partner to bring your ideas to life, our team specialises in Unity development, with expertise in AR, VR, and mobile game design. 

Developing games for Vision Pro will be very similar to other game developments, with a few exceptions, such as specific interfaces, interactions, and integrations. Each step can be a more or less complex process depending on the specifications of the projects. 

The perks of being an early mover

As mentioned in the first section, many businesses that moved to new gaming platforms early were able to build franchises that defined the technology. We also highlighted the potential benefits of being an early mover and some potential risks. While game development is a very familiar process, the new Vision OS will surely present plenty of challenges and the opportunity for breakout success.

So, we aren't suggesting you rush to make anything just to have a title released on the Vision Pro. Good things take time, and while it is good to be an early mover, you also want to ensure you are going into it with a game that will be recognised for its quality. You don’t only need to create a great game, but you also want to create an experience that is right for the new platform. People want experiences that showcase the cool new features of the technology they have invested in.

Astro's Playroom, a game developed by Sony's Japan Studio, served as a showcase for the capabilities of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) console DualSense controller. It offered a delightful platforming experience that showcased the advanced haptic feedback and adaptive triggers new to the controller. Astro's Playroom demonstrated the technical prowess of the PS5 and served as a nostalgia-filled tribute to the history of PlayStation.

A screenshot of Astro's Playroom and how it boosted PS5 sales

Astro's Playroom was a very simple game by most measures. It would have been ignored if released on any other console with any other controller. However, it still sits comfortably in the Top PS5 games lists today because the game utilised the new technology successfully and provided a novel experience that surprised and delighted players. 

Sometimes the most simple solutions can grow into the most lucrative franchises. Mobile gaming is an example where developers who launched early we able to build iconic franchises.

Some notable early mobile games have launched billion-dollar businesses:

Angry Birds

Originally released in 2009, Angry Birds by Rovio Entertainment became a global phenomenon. As of 2022, the franchise had generated over $4.2 billion in revenue. Rovio released numerous follow-up games to Angry Birds, including sequels like Angry Birds Seasons, Rio, and Space. The popularity of Angry Birds led to the release of an animated movie in 2016, simply titled "The Angry Birds Movie." The movie grossed over $350 million worldwide and spawned a sequel, "The Angry Birds Movie 2," released in 2019. 

Fruit Ninja 

Launched by Halfbrick Studios in 2010 for $1, Fruit Ninja became an instant hit. By 2015, the game had amassed over 1 billion downloads across various platforms. Halfbrick Studios released several spin-offs and sequels to Fruit Ninja, such as Fruit Ninja Kinect, Fruit Ninja VR, and Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots. A short Youtube Originals animated series, Fruit Ninja: Frenzy Force, gained over 8 million views. 

Temple Run

Developed by Imangi Studios and released in 2011, Temple Run introduced the endless runner genre to the masses. The original Temple Run launched as a premium purchase and generated millions in revenue before switching to a F2P model with in-app purchases. Imangi Studios released multiple sequels and spin-offs, including Temple Run 2 and Temple Run: Brave, which was a partnership with the Disney franchise. There were talks of a movie with Warner Bros. that never took off. 

Subway Surfers

Developed by Kiloo and SYBO Games in 2012, Subway Surfers is another endless runner game. In 2022, Subway Surfers generated around $155 million in lifetime revenue. While not directly tied to the original game, they have also released spin-offs like Subway Surfers: World Tour series and Subway Surfers: Airtime. Subway Surfers also had a brief animated series in 2018.

Clash of Clans

Released in 2012 by Supercell, Clash of Clans is a landmark strategy game where players build and defend their villages, train troops, and attack other players' villages. As of February 2023, Clash of Clans generated $5.13 billion in lifetime in-app revenues. During this, Supercell released Clash Royale, a spin-off that combines elements of real-time strategy and collectible card games.

Another important point to remember with the above examples is that because they were early to adapt and make games for the app store, they remained in the Featured Section for a long time. Even after others started to release on the platform, these games retained the attention of their audiences and were rewarded for it!

The Vision Pro is a gaming machine!

While the technology for Vision Pro is still in its early stages, there is no knowing how big and wide the industry will grow from now on. Meta’s Quest 3 has also recently been announced with similar AR/VR integrations and a strong focus on game content. 

This announcement is a sign to game developers to get ahead of the competition and start working on the next killer app. The Vision Pro is just a start for new emergent interactive experiences. VR and AR games will continue revolutionising the gaming industry, offering players unprecedented immersion, interactivity, and escapism. 

With these continuous advancements in immersive technology, from improved visuals and wireless capabilities to an expanding content library, there isn’t a better time to invest in developing games for these platforms. We can expect even more remarkable experiences pushing the boundaries of reality and delivering unforgettable gaming adventures.

It’s time for us to Ready Vision Pro and dive into a future where reality and digital will blend seamlessly. Curious about how to leverage this new tech and capitalise on this business opportunity? Book a free brainstorming session with me, and let’s chat about how we can help you!