Fast Travel Games is the latest virtual reality studio to launch a publishing arm, helping other VR developers bring their games to market.
The Swedish studio will offer a slew of publishing and marketing services to its clients, including funding, as it seeks to expand its business and improve its position in the virtual reality market.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, CEO Oskar Burman says Fast Travel has a seen "a great need for VR-specific games publishers."
"Over the last year we've been approached by other developers over and over again with questions and requests for support on how to bring their VR game to market," he says. "Much like there's little overlap between mobile games publishers and PC/console game publishers, I think VR publishers will carve out their own space that's different from the rest.
"Bringing VR games to market is very different compared to PC, console and mobile. The platforms are different, the certification processes are different, player expectations are different, and there's a whole different set of influencers covering VR -- just to name a few areas. Looking at where we come from, I think we can be best in class in bringing VR games to launch, and hopefully we can prove that to developers out there."
Burman founded Fast Travel Games in April 2016 after leaving Angry Birds studio Rovio Games, and has self-published its games from the off. He says the past five years have taught the team much about the features that work well in VR, optimising games for different platforms, which channels and influencers get the most attention for new games, and so on. Fast Travel has even been using its experience to help elevate other VR firms; for example, it hosted the VR Games Showcase at Gamescom 2019, presenting not only its internally-developed titles but also those from firms such as Resolution Games and Survios.
This year, Fast Travel is still riding high on the success of its most recent launch, VR horror game Wraith: The Oblivion - Afterlife, which debuted on Oculus back in May. Shortly after, the studio also completed a $4 million funding round, led by Nordics-based Brightly Ventures.
Of course, the Swedish studio is not the only company branching into VR publishing. Back in February, UK-based NDreams launched its own publishing arm with a $2 million fund for the first wave of games, and Embracer-owned Koch Media splashed €50 million on Dutch VR publisher Vertigo Games.
"I'm glad more companies in the VR space see this opportunity, but I feel like there's still a great need for more publishers interested in this space"
Competition in the space is heating up, but Burman is confident his team -- now led by Patrick Liu, Mojang Studios' head of games who has been hired as head of publishing -- will be able to hold its own.
"I'm glad more companies in the VR space see this opportunity, but I feel like there's still a great need for more publishers interested in this space," says Burman. "From a percentage point of view, this is the fastest growing segment within games -- far faster than mobile, PC and console -- so there should be more interest here, even though revenues are still quite modest compared to other segments.
"Right now I don't think the challenge is to stand out, rather to meet the interest from all developers that need help bringing their games to market."
To begin with, Burman says Fast Travel's publishing team will be "looking quite broadly across genres" but focusing on titles that are built for VR from the beginning "as those are the games we've seen working really well with our audience."
While VR has predominantly been a single-player domain, Burman reports this is a growing appetite for multiplayer games -- something Fast Travel Games is keen to capitalise on.
"When we started in 2016, there was no point in creating synchronous multiplayer games as the market was so small, but now it's much easier to find players online to play with, so this is an area we're looking at quite a lot going forward."
The rise of multiplayer games is just one of the changes Fast Travel is seeing in the virtual reality market. For example, while Sony's PlayStation VR has been the dominant platform for years, Burman reports his company now sees the majority of its sales on Oculus Quest -- with significant growth in China (despite Quest not officially being on sale there).
"Looking ahead I think both Sony and Valve will be fighting to gain market share back from Oculus with new exciting hardware offerings," he predicts. "We'll see increased competition, which should be good for the market overall."
Burman concludes: "In general the market is maturing in every possible way. Multiplayer didn't work well for VR, but now the install base is making this a lucrative segment. Only a year back there were no publishers for VR content, now this is changing. Free-to-play has not worked in VR due to limited install base, but I believe we'll see a couple of very successful F2P games in the next couple of years as the addressable market grows.
"We'll see more genres and more famous IPs being adopted for VR. In my mind this is already a very healthy space to operate in, and some 18 to 24 months from now I think we'll have an active userbase of about 20 to 30 million headsets that is craving new games. For me, that's a great space to be active in."