The Resolution Games CEO and former King games guru sheds light on his new VR studio, and what the recent $6 million raised means for the outfit

Tommy Palm: ‘VR needs mainstream content to succeed’

Before we get onto the money raised, it would be interesting to hear what Resolution Games has planned for VR gaming, especially considering your experience in mobile and with King.
I think VR has a little bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ problem right now. At the moment, there is really no hardware in the market yet. There is no consumer version. But what’s going to sell the hardware is the content. So we need to start seeing a lot of games, and I definitely think that one of the risks for VR is we do not have enough mainstream content. [In that case] it would become a sort of ‘tech niche’ thing

What I see when I try VR is this fantastic games platform. For me, there is no doubt in my mind that it is the next big – and logical – step for games. So we will be focussing on trying to bring a little bit of the accessibility from smartphone games over to the VR platforms.

However, I think it’s very important to state that these are two very different platforms. Casual games fit extremely well on smartphones where you have it in your pocket, you take it out, you can play a game while at the same time doing something else, whereas VR is something a little bit more couch-based where you have proper game session time. Those are experiences where you sit down and you enjoy something where you solely focus on playing a game.

So does that distinction mean the two are completely opposed? Is the dip in experience of a casual smartphone game relevant when VR is more immersive?
There are definitely a lot of great takeaways that we’ve seen in smartphone games, where the accessibility of the games have widened the target audience quite a lot. If you look at a game like Candy Crush, there were half a billion downloads of the mobile version after one year. That came from extending who was playing games.

And those lessons are a lot about just lowering barriers to entry and making sure that it’s easy and painless to get into fun and accessible gameplay. The social componets of playing mobile games have been very importantant for that widening.

Social and multiplayer is one of those areas that I’m very excited to prototype and investigate for VR, because as you are immersed so heavily into those worlds it’s very well fitted to experiencing something with somebody else.

It would also be interesting to hear the kind of studio Resolution is in terms of its creative approach, it’s structuring and so on. How big is the team, for example?
Traditionally I’ve seen the best and most creative teamwork by very small teams, where the entire team can be in the same room together. So we’ll have teams of about eight people, and we’re aiming to have two of those teams for now. We already have one team working on a fishing themed game, and we have another team starting to look at new projects. That second team is kind of a skeleton team for now, with three of us.

And that approach gives you flexibility with the number of projects and studio size, I presume?
Exactly. I think it’s also a little bit typically Swedish to not have a lot of hierarchy and to try to keep the organisation very flat. I think that’s a very good growing ground for good creative work, as we saw with Stugan.

But you’ll resist running the studio from a cabin in the woods this time?
I would actually love to, but we all live it the city.

Going back to your experience with Candy Crush Saga and free-to-play, do you see that as a suitable monetisation model for VR? It would seem like a challenge considering wearing a VR headset doesn’t favour the dip in experience that famously compliments free-to-play.
I’m a firm believer in microtransactions in games, and having games be free to download. Personally I don’t like it when you’re having to pay for something when you don’t know what it is really. And games can be so varied and so complex, it’s hard to determine what a game is just for reading about it or looking at screenshots or a video.

I think that going forward we going to see microtransactions growing. I don’t want to use the term ‘free-to-play’, because that has a connotation that brings your mind to a certain number of very popular smartphone games. But microtransactions is such a flexible model, and I think it very much depends on your game and your audience in terms of what model makes the most sense.

I think it also comes back to the target group for VR. It’s so much easier to download something for free and check it out and realise as a player that it is something you want to play a lot more of.

So that flexibility of the microtransaction model means it can be suited to VR experiences?
Yes. But I think it’s important to point out that at this point in time when it’s very early and we don’t have any consumer headsets out, the in-app purchase model is not yet implemented. However, it will come very soon, I’m sure.

Jester Solitaire is just one example of the type of casual content Palm
believes could perform well in the VR market

Moving onto the money you’ve raised, what does that $6 million mean to the studio?
It definitely allows us to make strategic decisions and not have to chase instant profits, which is great in a market that hasn’t really happened yet. It buys us quite a lot of time to hone in and develop our ideas. There’s such a great need for content for the VR market, so it’s very good to be able to know that this is a studio that we’re going to be able to run for years to come, even if there will be a lot of players in the first year, for instance.

And why was Google Ventures the right lead backer for Resolution in your Series A funding round?
Originally we weren’t looking for investment, but we got contacted by several different people about investment. Google Ventures was one of the companies that stood out, because they had been focusing a lot on VR and had a lot of really good thoughts. It became obvious to us that these were people who could think on a strategic level, and give us input about what is going on in the market outside of the markets.

[Google Ventures partner] Joe Kraus was one of the people who really challenged our thinking and came with great feedback and input. We felt it was a very good match, and it was similar to how we handle the recruiting process for the team in general. It brought us people we wanted to work with us, that we felt bettered us and complimented us in some aspect.

And what about the fishing game (pictured below) you mentioned? What kind of game is that?
We don’t have a lot of info about it at the moment. It was one of those things where we were brainstorming ideas, and looking for something that doesn’t create motion sickness or cyber sickness. Fishing came up as a calm yet accessible experience that many people can relate to, and it’s absolutely not like the fishing simulators. It’s more like an adventure game were the core mechanic is fishing.

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