The first time that most people try virtual reality is usually a transformative experience. Upon donning a headset and booting up the system, they’re immersed in a strange and incredible world that they can interact with and explore.
But once that novelty wears off, the allure of those virtual reality experiences can fade. Users might have enjoyed their initial interactions with virtual reality, but they likely moved on once something else seemed more appealing.
So what makes customers come back after their initial exposure to virtual reality experiences? Replay value.
The Social Side of Virtual Reality
While companies do a great job of delivering delightful and entertaining virtual reality experiences, they still struggle to create ones that make customers come back for more. The social element of these collaborative experiences is what gives them replay value.
In our “Deadwood Mansion” experience, for example, players join a task force to fight off hordes of zombies. If one player gets captured by a zombie and perishes, the other players need to reach over and touch that person’s shoulders to enable him or her to continue playing.
This game’s physical and social element might seem like a small detail, but it delivers the mind- blowing virtual reality experiences we envision in our heads — as well as a powerful social element. Someone who goes through the experience might think, “Gosh, I would love to bring my cousin or my other friends to do this with me. It blew me away, and I think they’d enjoy it.”
Business owners must figure out what makes customers come back again and again. Interestingly, about 20% of the users in our Hong Kong facility returned to check out “Deadwood Mansion” repeatedly. It’s not like 20% of audience members go back to see “Star Wars” more than once — the social element of virtual reality experiences is what gives them replay value.
The Importance of Ownership
Virtual reality experiences afford consumers more ownership than with any other form of entertainment. While most of these experiences aren’t designed with replay value in mind, the path forward depends on creating characters that engage users. Disney might be an unstoppable media empire at this point, but the entire company started with a single character: Mickey Mouse.
This means enabling players to build customizable characters who can collect loot and gain experience for every action they take. And the next time they play the game, users can return to those same characters to continue to modify and invest in these personas. By getting users to care about their characters, we can ensure repeat visits and increase replay value.
In addition to encouraging customers to come back for more, virtual reality companies would do well to find ways to monetize that ownership even when customers aren’t actively engaged with their offerings. Passionate “Fortnite” fans buy subscriptions, passes, and various digital merchandise for their characters. Skins — what your character wears in the game — are particularly popular with users who want to ensure their avatars feel unique and personalized.
As this trend infiltrates virtual reality experiences, users will use these skins to make a fashion statement as well as to showcase the spoils of their exploits. If you’ve worked to get a set of golden armor and a massive sword, you’ll naturally want to show them off to your friends.
How to Keep Replay Value Top of Mind
While customization options are great for increasing replay value, the virtual reality experiences themselves should also be replayable. While there isn’t much to gain by repeatedly seeing a movie with your friends, the same is not true about VR.
For example, the next virtual reality experience we’re building is titled “Dragon Slayers.” After users slay the dragon, they are treated to a giant box full of new in-game items. We’re talking about more powerful armor and weapons that might change the way they experience the game. It also includes a secret key to the next level — and a prompt to try out their new equipment the next time they visit.
By designing virtual reality experiences in a way to keep customers engaged and eager to return, we can increase replay value organically to build a sizable audience over time. And if customers return with a group of friends and family members in tow, it just means more opportunities to create return business.
Virtual reality experiences feel unique because they’re completely interactive and offer consequences that are different from other forms of entertainment. By encouraging ownership and being mindful of replay value when designing virtual reality experiences, there will be no more questions about what makes customers come back for repeat visits.
Interested in creating replayable player experiences for VR customers? Click here to learn more about becoming a Sandbox VR franchisee.