SKonec Entertainment began working in immersive technology in the same fashion as many studios. Creating a simple first-person shooter experience that suffered from the limitations of the hardware at the time along with locomotion challenges, Mortal Blitz was a simple yet well-received Samsung Gear VR title launched back in 2015. The title subsequently made its way to various head-mounted displays (HMDs), and paved the way for SKonec’s entry into comprehensive virtual reality (VR) development.
The history of SKonec Entertainment goes back way further than VR. The studio had previously developed titles for PlayStation 2 (Homura), Nintendo DS (Tornado, Mabeop Cheonajamun DS and Mabeop Cheonjamun DS 2: The Final Hanja Magic) and even the SEGA Dreamcast (Psyvariar 2) amongst others, but it is in VR that the Gangnam based studio found its raison d’etre.
Mortal Blitz has since become a franchise, with two further titles in full production. The first, Mortal Blitz: Walking Attraction is a free-roaming VR experience already available to consumers visiting SKonec’s own VR venues, VR Square, while the second, Battle Arena: Mortal Blitz is a multiplayer game designed for venues with smaller footprints, using four HTC Vives and a unique teleportation mechanic. A number of other titles have also been designed on this basis, such as a horror series (The Door) and a tactical first-person shooter (Operation Black Wolf: Battle of The Desert). In addition to all of this, SKonec still has the resources to be a work-for-hire studio, developing bespoke products for enterprise clients.
“SKonec is specialized in the content development for LBVR,” stated Vice President Jordhan Choi, “We have commercialized more than 55 games so far, especially shooting games, which has been our major genre.
“When talking about VR it’s usually not easy for consumers to get access to experience VR. Though hardware for home users is available, not many have been sold yet,” continues Choi. “We think that the VR market has to grow more, and to bring VR experiences to the masses, this is the main reason we worked on LBVR.”
This is where Battle Arena: Mortal Blitz comes into play. The game is designed with the express intention of crossing the divide between the location-based user and those who have already purchased VR hardware for use at home. The title will undoubtedly be hosted at SKonec’s VR Square venues – currently situated in Korea, China and soon LA – but also available to download via Steam and other consumer-facing digital distribution channels.
“It’s PvP and users can play the game at home and in locations at the same time, meaning cross-platform online/offline multiplayer gameplay. A matchmaking system will also be introduced; hopefully within this year we expect to officially announce that Battle Arena off/online version is ready to play.”
The way in which SKonec view a path to VR success is pretty clear at this point: starting with LBVR, the uptake of consumer hardware will grow over time in which the studio will have already solidified itself as a name associated with quality software. It’s essentially a remodeling of the Arcade and 8-/16-bit era, though with a few different driving factors accelerating the transition. SKonec are also investing in other techniques in order to raise their profile, and thus create an audience that is aware of their products even before purchasing the expensive VR hardware.
“In five years, don’t you think VR will walk the same path as smartphones? Surely, the market size will be different. For now, we would like to think widely and creatively how we can adapt more to the future VR market. We use existing technology; created a ‘Virtual YouTuber’ to have live chat with audiences. Getting more consumers into VR, ‘V-Tuber’, for example, is also our way of doing so.”
SKonec, then, are betting on the future. Establishing roots now with their own LBVR venues and ensuring that they produce high-quality content to populate them with, whilst moving towards the home user at the same pace as the VR hardware itself. Taking the throne as a leading LBVR vendor in Korea is a great achievement, and odds are that this carefully timed strategy will bring success in the home user market in time.
Kevin Joyce has been working with immersive technology since 2013, establishing VRFocus.com as one of the leading AR and VR publications before joining Admix, a non-intrusive advertising platform designed specifically for immersive experiences, as Lead Evangelist.