Last week, I put a survey in front of the VR community on reddit- specifically /r/oculus, /r/vive, and /r/virtualreality. There were an astonishing 547 responses- and the results were interesting to say the least. I plan on covering more of the findings in future write-ups, but today I'd like to talk about standing vs. seated experiences.
A Few Caveats...
It must be stated that this data is very informal and not thorough enough to be considered entirely scientific. Add to that the fact that I'm a game architect, not a statistician- I hope it can be accepted that these findings should be more about provoking discussion than as something to be sourced as comprehensive or fully authoritative. In fact, you may draw different conclusions from this data than I did- and that's ok! I'd like to know how I can ask better questions in future surveys as my goal is to gather information that will help other content creators like Block Interval find their way in this new medium.
Caveat 1: This data is self-selected
The people who filled out this survey were a) probably subscribed to one of the three subreddits listed above, b) passionate enough about VR to take a survey, and c) interested in knowing what others had to say. To me- this is a pretty narrow subset of who will be the actual core VR gaming audience once the Vive and Oculus CV1 come out.
Caveat 2: These enthusiasts are primarily interested in the Rift and the Vive
I didn't seek out responses from Fove or Samsung Gear enthusiasts- I stuck with the 2 primary home VR user groups (though /r/virtualreality does have a wider variety of users). Because of this- some of my data skewed heavily towards the Rift and Vive.
Caveat 3: This data represents anticipation- not reality
Since we don't have consumer versions of the Vive or Rift, we don't know how this data will change when we do. Many who answered probably haven't tried both of these devices, but responded based on what they anticipate they'll be doing with the devices. This may change drastically when we have consumer hardware (in fact, I expect it to).
Ok so all of that understood...
Let's get into the data
A few of the respondents messaged me and asked some variant of 'what if I want to play standing most of the time?' A better way to ask this question may have been something to the effect of, 'What percentage of the time do you think you'll enjoy standing in VR?' Perhaps in future polls I'll handle the question that way- but for now, we've got some rough numbers to look at.
The seated minority
It seems pretty clear that there will be a wide spread of preferences as far as standing and sitting goes. While they were definitely in the minority, 9% of users said they would prefer a mostly or entirely seated experience. In many development scenarios- it's more practical to design for the 90%, but consider the implications of missing out on 1 out of every 10 sales for your game because your players won't want to use it. I'm not saying we should sacrifice our standing games for this minority, but we should definitely be aware of the trade offs.
Conversely, creating a purely seated experience may alienate the 28% of respondents looking for regularly daily standing experiences.
Design for both?
A good rule of thumb may be to design for your primary expected use case with some clever gameplay and control degradation based on the user's preference to stand or sit. For example, if you have a game that requires moving your body around, perhaps you can create a toggle in the comfort options that allows seated players to achieve similar movement through peripherals.
User experience is now a staple of web and application design, but it will become all the more important when we migrate to VR. Comfort options are going to be the equivalent of today's accessibility options.
The majority of respondents (59%) seemed to be looking for a hybrid experience that had some standing and some sitting- or to be able to switch between standing and sitting depending on the experience or the mood. This is good news for game developers who have ideas that are more suited for one style over the other. Since demand doesn't seem to swing too strongly towards standing or sitting yet, there is room to innovate in both spaces. It will be interesting to see how game developers blur the lines between these two control styles.
The jury is still out on all of this. There's a lot more data to gather- and the entire landscape will probably change when the Vive and Rift consumer versions arrive over the next six months. I hope this information is useful in keeping the dialogue moving around standing vs. seated in VR and helps us move at least a little bit closer to understanding what gamers will want out of their experiences. Thanks for reading.