Strategies for a Successful Virtual Reality Mobile App

Mobile App Growth

November 29, 2018

This is a guest post from Molly Robinson at Apptopia.

There are 815 virtual reality mobile apps from 571 unique publishers in the Google Play Top Charts today. With relatively low volume and some apps making upwards of $20,000 per week, it’s clear publishers are testing the waters with an app or two, seeing if they can get a piece of the action.

So, how can publishers create a successful VR app?

We’ve identified and analyzed all the VR apps in Google Play Top Charts to pull out key trends across both stores.

Themes Top VR apps incorporate

A scare or a thrill

The immersive nature of VR makes horror and survival games a no brainer.

“Goosebumps Night of Scares” transports users to haunted locals while “Nerve – Do You Dare?” capitalizes on the summer flick, NERVE, by letting users experience dares from the movie in first-person virtual reality.

To offer a thrill without working with an existing brand or franchise, check out a few of the roller coaster VR apps taking off. Some even combine a thrill with a unique destination (even if it’s not ‘real’) like outer space or amongst dinosaurs!

Over the past year, Roller Coast VR by Fibrum has been one of the top performers in terms of downloads and revenue. The maps show the strength in downloads lying in Europe, followed by Oceania and Asia, while revenue is led by North American markets.

Similar VR apps follow the same pattern for downloads.

VR Apps downloads world
Downloads over the last 360 days
VR Apps revenue world
Revenue over the last 360 days

A rare experience

Many of the most successful VR games allow users to participate in an activity they could theoretically do, but may not want to. Such as golf a championship course, explore a cave, or walk in space.

VR grants them the opportunity to live the fantasy without the potential real-world risk or cost.

WGT Golf Game by TopGolf is one the leading VR apps, allowing users to golf on courses they may never experience in real life. The charts below reveal their strategy to release an update that aligns with a real-world event. June 16- 19, 2016 was the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. The app released an update (orange stars in the graph below) to allow users to virtually play the course along with the pros.

Interestingly, the Google Play version was not as immediately successful as the iOS version. The delayed spike was however more powerful, resulting in almost 28,000 daily downloads at its peak compared to about 22,500 for the iOS version.

VR iOS apps downloads TopGolf
iOS downloads over the last 90 days
VR Google Play app downloads TopGolf
Google Play downloads over the last 90 days

An exotic destination

While the most successful VR apps vary in genre, many offered a locational novelty. Such as flying over the Mediterranean, exploring unique corners of planet Earth, or even touring an amusement park in Ohio.

Let’s take a closer look at how the top ‘destination’ VR apps are performing.

In the last 60 days, across both stores, top apps like Just Cause 3 (an aerial tour over the islands of Medici) have seen approximately 2,500 daily downloads and less than a million Monthly Active Users. None of the top destination apps we reviewed are monetizing.

VR travel destination downloads

VR travel app MAU

Data and assumptions suggest the average developer should not take this route. Why?

  • Stagnant performance over the last couple months with relatively low daily averages
  • Development costs are likely high for apps with unique visuals from remote destinations
  • These apps are connected to existing products or franchises, which may reduce the overall pressure for the app to be a free-standing success

Actionable tips for marketing your VR app

Pick the right store and category

Whether you’ve already developed an app or are looking for a new category or topic to try, it’s critical to understand the ebb and flow of consumer interests at a high level.

While VR doesn’t have its own category in the stores (yet – Daydream is coming), developers should review the types of apps dominating a category and seek out VR apps that have broken through.

This insight can tell you whether apps launching in a particular category or store tend to do well or not, and can inform your own launch.

When you are ready to launch, make sure you follow ASO best practices (here is also an interesting podcast on the topic).

Without its own category, it’s critical to include the words ‘virtual reality’ and/or ‘VR’ in the name and description of the app. Several popular virtual reality apps also include a VR headset or carboard visual in their icons and screenshots to make it visually clear.

Analyze your competition

“WGT Golf Game by Topgolf” has made $610,000 over the last 30 days. Their monetization strategy? It depends on the store. The pie charts show revenue breakdown for the app over the last 30 days.

In iOS:

iOS Revenue VR Apps

In Google Play:

Google Play revenue VR Apps

By identifying and monitoring the apps you compete with, you can keep up with emerging trends and discover strategies for monetizing, user acquisition, and more.

These insights help avoid mistakes and get on the fast track to success.

Consider international markets

A critical mistake can be assuming the U.S. is the best market to launch. This leaves potential advertising ROI on the table.

While the U.S. market often brings in high revenues, the high CPI can quickly diminish your ROI. Launching something new or wanting to expand into new geographies? Look into regions where competing apps have earned a high ARPU in the past.

Check out the average ARPU for the TopGolf game on iOS. While the majority of revenue is from the U.S., the ARPU is only $1, the next highest earning country more than doubles that.

For developers looking to expand or test in a new region, seeing the value of a user is a critical piece of intel.

TopGolf VR markets revenue

It goes without saying, these tips should be applied to any type of app, not just VR.

We hope these insights and tips are valuable. Let us know in the comments if you have other advices and best practices regarding VR app strategies!


About the Author

Molly Robinson is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Apptopia, a global mobile app market intelligence provider.

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