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Q&A with Kris Severson - Director of Global Partnerships


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In this new Developer Blog series, we’re interviewing many of our VIVE colleagues who work with developers daily to highlight our way of thinking and help developers best utilize all the opportunities available at VIVE and VIVEPORT. First up is Kris Severson from our San Francisco Office.


Thomas: Hi Kris! Even though I already know, can you tell us a bit about your role and responsibilities at VIVE?


Kris: Sure! I’m the Director of Global Content Partnerships, which means I work with the development community worldwide to bring the best content possible to Viveport. This includes everything from premium games to compelling narrative storytelling and other cool things you never thought you’d experience in VR.


Thomas: How did you end up at Viveport and in the world of Virtual Reality?


Kris: I started out in gaming, working for Sony PlayStation back when it was a little start-up. I got a real birds-eye view of the industry, working with every major PC and console publisher/developer. After PS2 launched, I joined the team at Rockstar Games right around the time they were releasing Grand Theft Auto 3, which was a heady experience. Working at both a hardware platform company and then moving to the other side of that as a game publisher gave me a lot of insight into the pain points of both sides of the game business. This is one reason I love working at HTC, helping to evangelize amazing new hardware technology and collaborating with content creators in a whole new medium.


Thomas: So, you must talk to a lot of developers?


Kris: I do talk to a lot of folks who are passionate about ridding the world of zombies 🙂


Thomas: What is the #1 question you get from developers?


Kris: Ha, right now it’s: “When can I get a Cosmos?” and “When can I get a Pro Eye?”. Really, it’s amazing to see how everyone is so passionate about the hardware innovations happening in the XR world, and it’s great working at a company that is always on the forefront of that. It’s fun to see developers get really inspired by the possibilities of things like eye tracking and volumetric video capture. The creative world is on fire right now, and the consumer is the big winner of that.


Thomas: We’re seeing a lot of that creativity publishing onto Viveport. For a developer who is considering Viveport, why should they publish with us? We’re growing rapidly but we don’t have the user size yet of Steam or Oculus Store.


Kris: I have more than one answer for that!

We do some of the best marketing campaigns in the business. We work with each developer on an individual basis, figuring out the best marketing opportunities tailored to their particular content and collaborate on any crazy and unique ideas they may have. We go the extra mile, from painting the storefront red for the SUPERHOT’s launch, to creating some pretty stellar MR videos for games like Angry Birds VR and Takelings.

Viveport has a broader demographic than just the traditional gamer audience on Steam, so it’s a chance for a larger variety of content to get more visibility with the consumer. We have a great blend of both games and apps, and we’re passionate about promoting all kinds of VR content. Not only by genre but hardware too. We support content for not only Vive headsets, but also Oculus and Windows Mixed Reality. Add to that our mobile storefront for WAVE devices, and you can see how we’re establishing Viveport as the destination storefront for everyone.


We also have our location-based business, Viveport Arcade. When you launch your content on Viveport, it’s a simple click of a button to also launch with our arcade operators worldwide, increasing your reach instantly out into the LBE world. This provides a whole other revenue stream for your content and is much easier than trying to negotiate commercial licenses individually with operators.


Lastly, Viveport is the only store to have a subscription service, which sets us apart from everyone else in the VR world.


Thomas: Subscription is a pretty big deal for us – for a new developer, what is our Subscription service briefly?


Kris: Viveport Infinity is our subscription program where a user pays a flat monthly fee and has unlimited access to titles opted into the service. We’ve got an impressive collection of titles that is growing every day.


Thomas: And why should a developer opt-in for Viveport Infinity?


Kris: I always tell developers there are multiple ways to use our subscription service to their advantage. For one, it’s a great way to launch your title and get increased buzz in the community. We really focus on amplifying new content coming into Infinity, so you get maximum exposure with the consumer right out of the gate. For multiplayer games, it’s an amazing vehicle for user acquisition. A significant amount of our traffic happens in Infinity, so this can greatly increase your overall user base and cross-platform play.


Subscription is also great for content that is out of the mainstream; consumers get to try as many games and apps as they want and are more willing to experiment with an unknown title. Titles that have out there for a while can benefit by coming into Infinity, adding another marketing cadence to their content and revving up the sales cycle again. We’ve seen titles make as much (if not more) with ongoing Infinity revenue than they do in the paid download sections of stores.


A lot of this depends on price point, stickiness of content, and re-playability…we work with developers to figure out the best strategy for every piece of content. If it isn’t optimum to launch in Infinity, we still welcome you into the paid download section of the store. Bottom-line is that we want this to be a win-win situation for everyone…we want developers to make the most money they can so that they can go on to create more great content down the line.


Thomas: From your perspective, what is the #1 challenge VR developers face today?


Kris: I come from the console gaming world, so I’m used to having millions of installed units across mass market consumers. Right now, we all need more headsets on heads. We need to collectively evangelize the technology and get the word out that VR is not just a phone strapped to your head playing 360 videos. Part of what makes HTC great is that we have the best hardware experience, and we’re dedicated to partnering with the development community to bring the best content to consumers. We know it’s hard for developers to keep the lights on right now, so we’re investing with our partners for the long haul.


Thomas: And speaking of investment, conversations I often have with developers often include the word “funding”. Can you outline funding opportunities that come up at HTC that you’re directly a part of?


Kris: As I just mentioned in regards to keeping the lights on, yes, we are actively funding a highly curated selection of content for both PC and Wave devices. We want the best content for Viveport customers, particularly for Infinity subscribers. While Viveport does not operate in the sense of a first-party publisher and first-party budgets, we do function as a third-party supplemental funding source for developers. Also, there is the Vive Studios program where developers can apply.


Thomas: Any tips for a developer approaching HTC or other companies about funding?


Kris: Have a fully fleshed-out proposal. Come with different levels of potential funding options, opening a dialog to discuss various ways in which to partner together. Keep in mind that support can come in different forms as well, from hardware seeding to marketing opportunities with significant in-kind value.


Thomas: What do you hope to see VR developers focus on in the future?


Kris: I also head up HTC’s VR for Impact initiative, so I always love seeing projects with a real social impact. Earlier this year we launched Tree, which generated donations to the Rainforest Alliance in support of reforestation around the world. We all love doing good.


Thomas: Down to the last question. If you could tell all VR developers out there one thing, whatever that may be, what would you say?


Kris: Be a little crazy. For instance, who would have thought shooting fruit in a supermarket would be that much fun [i.e. Shooty Fruity]? Be a little simple. Beat Saber surprised everyone…sometimes it’s the easy-to-learn, hard-to-master ideas. And be a whole lot optimistic. We are just getting started and I know there are so many mind-blowing VR experiences yet to come.


Thanks Kris for taking the time and doing what you do for developers! And developers, thanks for reaching! You can connect with Kris Severson at LinkedIn here and if you want to get started with Viveport, head off to the Developer Console. Next month, we’re sitting down with Jennifer Bullion, Developer Marketing Manager at Viveport, to hear about what she is seeing are the most successful strategies reaching VR customers and all the marketing opportunities available to developers.

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