How Beat Saber Won The Battle For Mainstream Consumers

Does Beat Saber hold the recipe for global VR success?

With the VR industry crying out for ways to make it ‘make it mainstream’, can we learn a thing or two from Beat Saber… a game that won over VR trendsetters and traditional gamers alike? 

Beat Saber blasted onto our screens in May 2018 by Czech Republic developers, Beat Games, after the team realized they weren’t satisfied with the rhythm runners on the market at the time. Beat Saber, is an insane mix of original beats and energetic saber play, features two game modes – single and party – with 10 original tracks. Since then, the force has been strong with these young Padawans (and the community) and Beat Saber has climbed the games charts to an overwhelming Steam victory, plus hefty success on the Oculus Store. With 100,000 copies sold in their first month, plus 10/10 reviews on these platforms aren’t easy, and especially no mean feat for a rhythm runner.

So why this game, and why now?

I think it’s high time we took a closer look at the indie rhythm runner that has risen to fame with just a team of two developers, one music composer and one hell of a cool, interactive experience.

Beat Saber is iconic in its novelty factor. Lightsabers are, first and foremost, inherently cool, yet in their coolness there lies an element of the unreachable. How often have you wanted to experience that electric feeling of wielding your own saber? Traditional PC games haven’t always been able to cut it. This is where the power of VR truly comes into play. Strap on a headset, and you’ve automatically shape shifted to swordsman status, with a sweet music taste to boot.

The simple rhythm runner game mechanic is what makes this experience accessible, and addictive, for everyone. Rhythm runners are notorious for their ‘plug in and play’ set up, providing a perfect frame for immersive gameplay. That’s not to say that narrative-based gameplay has no place in VR, but a high energy and engaging experience right off the bat undeniably contributes to an addictive first-time-user experience.

Next comes the social ‘party mode’ whereby you can easily play with your friends on one device. A far cry from talk that VR is isolating and exclusive, Beat Saber is a wild party vibe solidifier, the ultimate icebreaker to chase away those awkward first encounters and encourage all to get involved and just ‘beat it’.

Then there’s the musical element of the VR gaming experience, one that some would argue is the game’s most enticing element. Music is inherently social in nature. It’s an element which brings people together; that not only affects gameplay, but is also key to Beat Saber’s virality. Suitable props must therefore go to the team for an incredible set of tracks.

A distribution strategy using mixed reality gameplay recording was also key to Beat Saber’s success. While the game isn’t compatible with every mixed reality recording option we shoot with (we’ve tried numerous times), the community’s user-generated content has played a large part within the marketing mix. The community’s organic distribution of hours of MR content across a plethora of social media platforms helped skyrocket the game’s popularity. Beat Saber appeals to both traditional and VR gamers…including your mum. Factor in gamers’ own beats and it sensationally hits the mainstream.

Finally comes their newest addition – dedicated arcade machines. After the success of their global arcade tournament, which involved over 120 participating arcades, Beat Saber took its accessibility one step further by removing the need for arcade staff.

These new machines allow players to seamlessly pay and jump straight into the experience without any setup assistance. In theory, this means that Beat Saber is no longer fixed to any set location. The arcade machines are currently only being rolled out across Asia, but we don’t anticipate this being the case for very long.

Is Beat Saber the mainstream success story we’ve been looking for? VR content? Check. Scintillating first-time-user experience? Check. Community involvement? Check. PSVR? Coming late 2018.

Its worldwide appeal has even stretched to VR for fitness. Move over Wii, Beat Saber is making damn sure a VR headset will be the new Christmas must-have.

Headsets off to you!

Image Credit: Beat Games

About the Scout

Faye Maidment

Faye is a marketer for VR, AR and AI experiences at Virtro Entertainment. When she's not in a VR headset or writing for VRScout, she's enjoying life as a runaway Brit on the West Coast.

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