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GDC – Social and Multiplayer in VR with POPULATION: ONE

Courtesy of BigBox VR, Inc.

Battle royale games have been the center of the gaming world for a couple of years now, and POPULATION: ONE brings the mode into the space of virtual reality. BigBox VR’s immersive near future game allows teams of 18 players to fly, shoot, climb, and build in a 1-kilometer sized map grounded in a realistic art style. POP: ONE was initially intended to become a PC exclusive until the developers had a meeting with Oculus that ended with them agreeing to put their game on the Quest platform at any cost.

POP: ONE made its debut in October 2020 to very positive reviews on Steam and became an instant favorite for players with mobile headsets. During Wednesday’s “Squad Up!” panel at GDC 2021, Chia Chin Lee and Gabe Brown from BigBox VR chatted with Omid Yazdanshnas from Oculus about the social ecosystem created by POP: ONE and VR in general. The representative’s of BigBox VR pointed towards research they had done on player engagements inside of POP: ONE to reveal that players that have more in-game friends have better retention than those who don’t make any in-game friends.

POP: ONE aims to increase player retention by making it easier to create friendships within the game. POP: ONE also includes a feature in which players can subscribe to leaderboards in order to get mobile notifications about their friends or get news about events happening in the game. Any friends that you make in POP: ONE will be considered your Oculus friends, which will allow you to play any immersive games with your new pals. According to Lee, POP: ONE has managed to create 1.7 million friend connections since its release last year. The dedicated fanbase for the game is growing as more and more people share social connections. A couple even got engaged via POP: ONE.

At the end of the panel, Lee and Brown spoke about how VR is at the “iPhone to iPhone 3G moment.” VR is experiencing exponential growth with Oculus Quest leading the way. The demographic is shifting from elite gamers to the mainstream consumer which will allow developers to see VR content as a legitimate way to start a business. With a bright future ahead, it’s exciting to see how gaming will continue to innovate thanks to platforms like Oculus and games like POP: ONE.

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