Mobile Mavens

Mobile games industry experts react to Google Pixel and Daydream View VR

Mobile games industry experts react to Google Pixel and Daydream View VR

On October 4th Google announced the new Google Pixel smartphone range alongside its very own mobile VR headset, the Daydream View.

The Pixel is a premium, iPhone 7-rivalling handset with Siri-esque Google Assistant software, an XL model with a 6-inch screen and - as Google was keen to remind the public - a 3.55mm headphone jack.

As for Daydream View, the headset is powered by compatible smartphones in the same way as a Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard.

The $79 head-mounted display comes with a single motion controller, supports head-tracking, and can already boast the support of more than 50 developers.

Much of the early buzz about the pair has been positive, but how are those in the mobile games industry reflecting on Google's announcements? To find out, we asked our Mobile Mavens:

  • Do you think the Pixel can compete with other leaders in mobile hardware?
  • Can Daydream View bring VR into the mainstream?
Vladimir Funtikov Co-Founder Creative Mobile

Any phone with a 3.5mm jack that doesn't explode has the potential to sell well, but it depends on the story that's being told to consumers more than the hardware itself.

What's more interesting is that it comes as a part of a hardware-software ecosystem that looks more coherent and UX-focused than ever.

Previous Google devices were often reference platforms that would "show the way", but now they're presenting polished products that try to speak to the consumer in the language perfected by Apple.

I wouldn't expect amazing results right away, but this must be part of a long-term play.

Same goes for Daydream. VR is still so far from being mainstream, one device can't turn the tables. But it's another step towards the goal.

I love the cosy design that's more acceptable to a non-geek than the sci-fi Gear VR (nothing wrong with that, of course). It's part of a long-term effort that will eventually make VR mainstream.

Torulf Jernström CEO Tribeflame

I was quite impressed with what Google showed. I already use a whole bunch of Google software on my iPhone, and I like to have features well integrated.

My personal rule has been to always switch back and forth between Android and iOS every time I buy a new phone (to force myself to understand both sets of customers).

Next up is an Android phone, and I'm pretty sure its going to be a Pixel.

Daydream also looks like it is one of the more promising devices to get people to use VR. It's cheaper, lighter and looks better than the competition.

I'm still not betting the company on VR's DAU rising to relevant numbers in the short-term.

Oleg Pridiuk Evangelist, Defold King

I’d say, VR-wise, the key is not the hardware itself, but the retail channels - service, support, etc.

The key is not the hardware itself, but the retail channels.
Oleg Pridiuk

In other words, we cannot discuss hardware competition on a global scale until people can actually have (easy) access to it. Globally.

But just for the sake of geeking out, the device has a 2K screen powered by Adreno 530 GPU - a hardware combination that may deliver VR experience that would potentially be immersive enough for consumers.

Everything else, however - including mobile VR focus within public game engines - is yet to catch up.

Devs may encounter all kinds of fundamental challenges to make mobile VR good enough - down to available mobile texture compression being impossible to use for VR purposes because of size, artefacts or lack of features.

Kadri Ugand Partner GameFounders

Co-founder. Kadri manages the everyday life of the game accelerator, expands the mentor network, partnership deals and connects the startups to suitable mentors.

In VR so far, the devices have competed more on the tech side, but now a completely new aspect has been brought to the table with the selection of the material and also the overall look and design.

It's definitely a step closer to a lighter and more comfortable experience, which in turn makes it possible to have longer sessions.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

The Pixel looks like a great phone - but then so do pretty much all phones these days.

It's increasingly hard to get excited about a handset, when the improvements with each generation seem to get smaller and smaller, and most people are replacing phones only because their contract or battery expires.

It seems sensible then that Google, having established its operating system primarily through other people's phones, now seeks to use its service integration to become more Apple-like.

It will be interesting to see if Google's goals change a little - whereas Apple's main goal has always been selling handsets, Google's has been to spread Android and its advertising ecosystem.

Is Google now wanting handsets to become an important part of its business, or is this just the next step in ensuring Android continues to thrive?

In terms of VR, it's great to see a lighter headset with a softer design. I don't think it'll bring VR into the mainstream - that still feels like a long way off to me.

I find phone VR as a concept currently a little challenging. Everything that makes mobile gaming such a mainstream thing - a small device, always with you, which you can discreetly use anywhere, any time - completely fail to apply to VR.

Everything that makes mobile gaming so mainstream fails to apply to VR.
Harry Holmwood

You're not going to use it walking down the street, in line for a coffee, on the train or craftily in a restaurant when your companion has nipped off to the bathroom.

Even a smaller headset like Google's isn't going to be something people will carry around with all the time. For me, VR (especially Vive) is an amazing thing which points to an exciting future.

The big question is whether we're now on a direct path to that future, some five to 10 years hence, or whether we'll see VR fail before it comes back, resurgent and exciting, when the world and the tech is finally ready for it.

Worth noting, of course, that both Google and Microsoft have been down the path of acquiring mobile phone manufacturers before (Motorola and Nokia).

Microsoft perhaps damaged their ability to get third-parties to support Windows mobile in doing so (although arguably the writing was already on the wall there).

Google may need to take care not to damage those relationships, or may have decided that Android is now so unassailable as 'the only viable non-iOS operating system' that the phone manufacturers matter less and less to them.

Jon Hare Owner Tower Studios

Jon Hare is one of Europe's best known creative directors and game designers with over 10 international number one games to his name and nearly 30 years of experience in the games industry.

Jon co-founded and managed the legendary 1980/90s development company Sensible Software, creating games such as Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Wizball to great critical acclaim and commercial success and has also worked in senior posts in two of the UK's biggest games developer/publishers Codemasters and Jagex.

Since 1999 Jon has been one of the top game design and business development consultants in Europe working for many different publishing and development clients.

His own new company Tower Studios specializes in developing, publishing and licensing games on mobile and digital formats enjoying recent international success with the release of Speedball 2 Evolution and Word Explorer across numerous mobile and digital platforms.

Jon has also been a full BAFTA member for over 10 years, serving on the BAFTA Games Committee and is a regular Chairman of juries for BAFTA Games awards, as well as acting in a mentor capacity for both BAFTA and NESTA.

We have recently adapted Sociable Soccer to VR and find it excellent on all of the VR platforms we have used so far: Gear VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

From a design perspective, Daydream will be pretty much the same. The key elements of bringing VR into the mainstream are the following elements:

  • Price: I believe Oculus and HTC Vive are too expensive to ever make them mainstream;
  • Camera angle: By using a zoomed-out camera angle, we reduced motion sickness to zero for Sociable Soccer players;
  • Controllers: Headset-based control is a very bad idea, as your arms will get tired quickly. We have found remote joypads to be excellent for our game;
  • Ease of access: Currently, the VR stores are wonderfully uncluttered by thousands of me-too games. We can only pray this will last. The key will be driving people to these stores from elsewhere online;
  • VR menu solutions: Menus are a pain for VR, but without them games appear simplistic and one-dimensional. Some kind of off-the-shelf VR menu tool would be very handy for us game designers;
  • Platform-holder support: In general, the VR platform-holders offer wonderful support until it comes to easily accessible development money. The skill of assessing games pre-Beta has been totally lost by most publishers and platform holders in recent years - they simply offer money too late into the development process at a point when most of the risk has already been taken by the developer. 

The VR development world is small enough for this bad habit from other platforms to be dropped by the platform-holders, and I would like to see them using more of an old-fashioned publishing mentality.

This would involve backing some promising games more heavily, learning the skill of reading and understanding design documentation and assessing the ability of developers to deliver quality before the game is finished.

And finally:

  • VR specialist publishers: There are very few of these, but they could clean up if they get the model right and work with both the devs and the platform holders;
  • Local PvP: We have found that VR headsets with phones in as the source of sound and no headphones creates a much more sociable environment for playing head-to-head games, like football in our case. This is the playground toy of the future.

Ben Vu CEO SkyVu Entertainment

We've been building something for Daydream and are really excited about Daydream View pushing mobile VR into the mainstream.

The low price-point, super fast setup, connector-less design, non-techie aesthetic and simple controller makes Daydream View usable for women and men everywhere.

Mobile VR will be the fastest growing VR segment and we're happy to see Google take the lead.
Ben Vu

The required controller has allowed us to add so many great features that immerses the user deeper into our virtual places.

As mobile VR developers, we've been really pleased with the support from the Google VR team and Unity.

The Google Play integration is a big deal for us because we've been publishing on Google Play since it was called Android Market. Their publishing platform is top notch and keeps getting better and better.

With existing titles already on Google Play, we look forward to bringing great mobile VR experiences to our existing Android users as Daydream-ready phones proliferate the market in 2017 and beyond.

Mobile VR will be the fastest growing VR segment and we're happy to see Google take the lead with Daydream View.

Christopher Kassulke CEO / Owner HandyGames

Daydream is one part of the VR evolution and I am sure we will see way more of it soon. Every major player joining VR is welcome.

The only issues I see are that the hardware will only sell with awesome content and the fragmentation of hardware and stores will make life hard for content developers.

We have several awesome titles out and in development, including multiplayer tank game Panzer Panic VR. We bet heavily on VR.

On the handset strategy, I guess we will see many more Daydream-ready devices from CES and Mobile World Congress. 

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

I've been trying to figure out what exactly is a Daydream-ready device.

The Nexus 6P was used as the build/test device. Google has since said it is not an official Daydream device because it does not meet the thermal performance required.

My thoughts:

The headset is good direction. Cloth is more comfortable and should hold up against being dropped off coffee tables and shoved into bags.

Cloth is more comfortable and should hold up against being dropped.
Jared Steffes

I was a little thrown by how the phone sticks out the front, but it makes sense from a design point of view for maximum device coverage.

Why did they not announce a non-phone version of the Pixel that would be cheaper for VR only?

This isn't the future of VR I was expecting. I feel the future is to have your phone in your pocket or on the charger while it acts as a central computer for the software that is beamed to a lighter headset with it's own battery, low energy CPU, and sensors.

I am bullish that Daydream will help expand the adoption of VR, but it will definitely move faster with sub-$40 headsets using their design and a whole new cycle of phone purchases.

I believe the consumers have gotten tired of being tempted to upgrade every year a new iteration comes out. That is why a device made just for VR, or using a tablet at home, will drive more adoption.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Based on the Daydream love-fest this discussion seems to have become, I fear I may be a lone dissenting voice! Or if not dissenting, at least quite cautious.

I think that Google's record to date on launching smartphones has been poor, and nothing about the Pixel looks to have significantly changed this - although I expect them to have learnt lessons from the past.

But it's not enough to announce another Apple-esque, high-end handset. The retail experience and distribution is absolutely key to sustaining sales past the initial early adopter rush.

Also, it's priced alongside the iPhone 7 and Samsung S7, pitching it right at the premium segment which is arguably pretty saturated already - considering that only 20% of mobile subscribers are seen as potential 'switchers' from iOS to Android (and vice-versa).

Google's own sales forecasts for the Pixel are actually pretty low. I also wonder whether the Google brand will actually resonate with consumers when it comes to a smartphone.

For all the diversity of Alphabet, the Pixel is part of the Google brand, which is based predominantly on the search engine, and Chromebooks (which are not a premium product).

Google's record on launching smartphones is poor, and nothing about the Pixel looks to have changed this.
John Ozimek

Will consumers see Google as a lifestyle brand to rival Apple, or a polished consumer tech brand like Samsung? I have my doubts - especially when there is no retail network to support the brand at point of sale.

When it comes to Daydream, it's obviously important for Google to keep at the forefront of VR, but I think we are still way too early in the hype curve for anything on mobile to translate into the mainstream.

Even with the better accessibility of AR, Pokemon GO already feels like 2016's Flappy Bird.

I agree with what was already said about a VR experience that doesn't require you to shove your phone on the front of your head being the one that might be acceptable to more casual users.

I'm looking forward to trying some of the VR games that are emerging, and some of the stuff my fellow Mavens are working on sound awesome.

But I'm very aware that as someone who's spent years obsessing about tech and games, I do not represent the interests of a mainstream consumer.

We need to be careful to not get stuck in the echo chamber of the Next Big Thing.

William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

The continuing Samsung fire issues are the best thing to ever happen to Google’s phone.

I think the Pixel would have been a nice, but not stellar selling phone. Now with Samsung’s problems, it’s probabily the Android phone to own.

For more VR, AR and MR news, check out our new website The Virtual Report.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

Comments

No comments
View options
  • Order by latest to oldest
  • Order by oldest to latest
  • Show all replies
Important information

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. By continuing to use our site, you consent to Steel Media's privacy policy.

Steel Media websites use two types of cookie: (1) those that enable the site to function and perform as required; and (2) analytical cookies which anonymously track visitors only while using the site. If you are not happy with this use of these cookies please review our Privacy Policy to learn how they can be disabled. By disabling cookies some features of the site will not work.