The less you know, the more you save with these blind box bundles.
Since its introduction on Oculus Quest headsets earlier this year, the Oculus App Lab has served as an excellent resource for Quest developers, allowing them to share their games and apps with the community prior to Oculus Store approval. According to several developers, however, the experimental test channel lacks any significant marketing capabilities, making it difficult for up-and-coming developers to advertise their content.
To assist the community in bringing their indie VR games and apps to the public, 23 Quest developers have banded together to offer the first-ever App Lab bundle, Lab Surprise.
Here’s how it works: every time you log on to the official Lab Surprise page, you’ll be presented with a new bundle featuring three random App Lab games. Recently, the team introduced an additional five games to the roster, bringing the total number of games to 19; that’s 969 potential combinations. Now, here’s where things get interesting. Each of the three games will appear hidden to you at first. You can choose to reveal each game individually, though each time you do you lower the bundle’s discount.
Purchase the entire three-game bundle as a blind box and you’ll score a sweet 75% discount. Reveal one game and the discount becomes 50%. Revealing two games brings it down to 30% while opening all three gets you just 10% off. So, the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Those interested can learn more over at Labsurprise.me. The bundle was originally scheduled to run until April 28th, but was recently extended for an additional 10 days, so get in while the gettings good!
We had a chance to chat with Julien Dorra, creator of the Quest game Peco Peco and one of the organizers behind Lab Surprise, to learn more about how this cooperative marketing venture came to be and what it could mean for the indie VR scene.
What has the response been like this past week? Any plans to continue the program?
“VR players like the idea of having both a great discount and a way to support indie devs. We saw a lot of fun discussion on VR Discords along the lines of “What did you get?”, “I’ll try another one”, so many VR players get the playfulness behind Lab Surprise.
Some players told us they don’t like the idea of the surprise box, and for them we offer the possibility of fully revealing as many surprises as they want and get a 10% discount when they find a nice bundle they like. So I think, even if you don’t like surprises you can get something out of Lab Surprise. But we also faced two big criticisms: the micro-site was barebone, and the lineup of games was maybe too small with 14 games. (that’s debatable of course, as gathering 14 App Lab games is already not bad at all!).
So we worked hard in the last few days to onboard 5 new developers who reached to us (including making them verified Paddle vendors in no time), going from 364 bundle combinations to 969 unique bundle combinations… which is kind of crazy if you think of it! 969 different bundles of 3 games, isn’t that more than everyone ever did in 2 years on Quest? And we also give an upgrade to the site.”
What are some of the issues developers have with the current state of App Lab?
“App Lab is a great step forward for indie devs on Quest, with super easy updates for our players, very important anonymized user engagement data… But marketing-wise, it lacks features like setting up a co-op bundle with other App Lab apps, setting a temporary discount on an app… players also cannot buy-as-gift an App Lab app (and some of us already had players complaining about that… there’s sadly nothing we can do here). Players ask if we are going to offer DLCs or more content using IAPs in App Lab apps, or offer cross-buy with Rift, and again, it’s not something that is under the control of developers to unlock, including all the new features that come to the official store like Subscriptions.
So, on App Lab, we don’t have the full capability of a platform like Steam or Itch. And of course we get no exposure at all from Oculus, all App Lab apps are considered off-platform. However, thanks to Oculus Store keys devs can experiment: create sales, do giveaways or contests, try and sell on third party platforms… Oculus gave all the developers the official go to sell keys the way they want.”
Is Lab Surprise a direct response to these collective frustrations?
“The VR ecosystem, including Quest, is still mostly solo developers. I think the vast majority of games I played lately comes from solo developers.
So Lab Surprise, like the Waiting for App Lab bundle before, is a project to help build up and sustain the indie VR dev ecosystem, to help create a support system for indie VR devs when they want to reach out to players. We call it Collective Marketing.
VR devs are very isolated right now, there are no events, and as the ecosystem is still a majority of indie and solo developers, they are also quite isolated in terms of marketing and communication. They try many things, like paid advertising here and there, but they have a really hard time just being seen by the players who would love their games. Instead of struggling with solo marketing that, frankly, doesn’t work that well at that small scale, we could all benefit from doing things more collectively. All creative productions, including games or apps, are always in a very diverse market, with a few big hits and long tails of smaller and smaller successes (Success for a solo dev is not the same as success for a 50-person studio!).
In VR, Oculus often celebrates the hits, as it shows that the ecosystem is growing, that you can build up an entire studio based on VR titles. But the platforms, Oculus included, must also demonstrate that the market can do more than sustain 10 or 20 VR hits, that it can also help a healthy long tail of smaller studios to be sustainable and grow, because an ecosystem without a tail is really not an ecosystem at all. What should we build to help these solo developers or very small teams more easily reach success, to prove themselves? Do we wait for Oculus to have a plan for us indie devs? Or do we try to build up fun events around our games so our players can hear about us?”
Feature Image Credit: Lab Surprise