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Sam Watts on the broadening of retro and rise of immersive technologies like VR

Sam Watts on the broadening of retro and rise of immersive technologies like VR

Sam Watts is the Immersive Partnerships Director at Make Real.

Having 20+ years of experience delivering immersive experiences - from 25+ PC and VR games to enterprise training to out-of-home entertainment - Sam has worked with the biggest brands including BBC, E4, Vodafone, Porsche and McDonald’s. He has been featured in The Guardian, BBC, EDGE and Time.

These past eight years have been focused solely on co-building the Make Real studio around eXtended Reality (XR): VR, AR and Mixed Reality (MR). He looks at how the fourth wave of these technologies changes the ways we work, learn and play.

Studio VR game releases include Radial-G: Racing Revolved, Loco Dojo on all PCVR platforms and imminently Loco Dojo Unleashed for Oculus Quest. Sam is the immersive specialist for Tech London Associates - Future of Work and chair of the AIXR Enterprise Steering Board Committee.

At Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8, Sam will be joining a panel exploring the question: Is XR Gaming Ready to Conquer the World?

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about what you do?

Sam Watts: Make Real is an award-winning immersive technologies content developer and publisher with a proven track record in creating validated, meaningful and memorable learning experiences for the enterprise and entertainment sectors, at work and in and out of home.

Our background in learning, games and simulation design and development means we lead the way in creating content determined by objectives and outcomes, not driven by the technologies. However, our team of creatives, coders, designers - and our internal partnerships team - ensure we remain at the forefront of the technology and understand audience and user needs, always looking to evangelise and educate partners on the benefits and use cases of immersive technologies.

Game genres and business models have changed considerably.
Sam Watts

The studio moniker is "serious fun", reflecting the engaging side of learning but also the in- and out-of-home experiential entertainment products created for VR platforms, like Radial-G: Racing Revolved and Loco Dojo.

We are trusted to design and deliver learning, development, training and simulation solutions to some of the world’s largest organisations, including Lloyds Banking Group and EDF Energy.

Make Real is an approved developer partner with Oculus for Business ISV, HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens, Sony PlayStation VR and Google.

What does your role entail?

My role is a multi-faceted, many-hatted, 'digital jam' role working in all aspects of the studio not directly related to development. This ranges from managing the external comms channels, internal promotion of new devices and technologies, fostering partnerships with hardware and software manufacturers to gain access to new prototypes, dev kits and funding.

There’s also evangelism and education of clients, partners and any interested parties of the use cases for and benefits of immersive technologies, like AR and VR.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

I have enjoyed playing games from a young age, so like many, I expected it would be great fun to make them. Once I realised the industry is a lot of hard work with many rewards and how much effort is involved, I wanted to carry on educating and enabling others to gain access through non-standard pathways to ensure we continue to broaden the diversity and inclusion of creators within the industry.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the games industry?

Don't always expect to work on games you like. Avoid companies that only hire fans of the games they make. Be prepared to show your work. Don't give up. Networks work. Know your limitations and do not work for companies who ask more than you should give.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

There have obviously been a number of challenges for studios that were previously bums-on-seats oriented, expecting teams to work in the same building. But much of the world of game development has shown that the development itself can continue remotely, making many studios and developers rethink what they expect from employees and employers.

The retro scene has grown considerably as more generations of older hardware now fall within the retro bracket.
Sam Watts

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

I expect three key things:

• Continued shortages of the latest consoles as silicon supplies remain constrained.

• Continued delays to releases due to remote development and post-COVID impacts.

• Continued growth of VR gaming as devices get cheaper and access friction reduces.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

Over 20 years there have been many generations of consoles and a lot of PC hardware released that has driven the computational and graphical power available, increasing player expectations of quality as well as development timelines and costs.

On the flip side, the retro scene has grown considerably as more generations of older hardware now fall within the retro bracket; what was once new is old and what is old is new again.

Game genres and business models have changed considerably, from a one-time purchase of a boxed product on the shelf, to monthly subscriptions becoming free-to-play (charging in player time), to DLC and premium passes where the game becomes a service and the costs continue for the player. There is more awareness of negative outcomes of game development tropes but not enough companies positively changing to impact benefits onto their teams.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to?

My panel, haha!

You can find Sam at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #8.

Join the conversation

Hear from Sam Watts and more than 250 other expert speakers at PG Connects Digital #8, September 27 - October 1. Don’t forget to check the full conference schedule to see exactly who you could be learning from throughout the week.

It’s the perfect time to register and secure your spot as the MeetToMatch meeting platform is now live, meaning you can hop straight in and start requesting meetings with industry professionals from across the globe today.

Book your ticket now!


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