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Within the last year, a free game called Gorilla Tag has become one of the most popular titles on the Meta Quest 2 headset. Yet it only recently launched on the Quest store. Before that, Gorilla Tag was available on the Quest’s App Lab, a distribution platform separate from the main store where developers can get their apps directly to their consumers.
For those who haven’t tried it, Gorilla Tag is a multiplayer title where the player’s locomotion is tied entirely to using their hands. They move, jump and climb solely through the use of hand motions, rather than moving their bodies or using the controller’s joysticks. Player avatars are cartoonish facsimiles of gorillas — hence the name. There are currently four game modes, three of which feature tag or tag-like gameplay (the fourth is a casual mode for socializing).
The game launched on Steam Early Access and Sidequest in February 2021, and it debuted on the Quest’s App Lab the following March. At the time of this writing, it has accrued $26 million in revenue from in-app purchases on App Lab. Its peak monthly active user count is 2.3 million, while over 760,000 users played the game on Christmas Day.
According to developer Another Axiom, the game managed this level of engagement with almost no direct marketing. Gorilla Tag users have used word of mouth — or rather, social media — to talk about the game, with TikTok being an especially big factor. The game also currently has over 52,000 ratings on the Quest Store and is listed as the most popular.
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Kerestell Smith, the creator of Gorilla Tag, said that he came up with the locomotion first, with the game’s primate concept coming later. “When I first prototyped that movement, I showed it off to some friends. One of them suggested, ‘Hey, it kinda looks like a gorilla walking around.’ I initially didn’t want to theme it around gorillas — it’s not like gorilla is my favorite animal or anything. But it’s so evocative of the way you move. People really understand what it means to move as a gorilla, and you don’t need to explain it that much.”
Smith told GamesBeat he began working on the game in part due to his fondness for Echo Arena and his desire to play tag in that game. “We thought when the Quest 2 first came out, how cool it would be if you could play tag in a big, open space. After working with this locomotion, I had the idea again, ‘What if we added tag?’ As soon as you could talk to somebody, see them, chase them, tag them, it was amazing … I never expected the success the game turned into, but from the very beginning I knew it was awesome.”
He says that the game quickly spread through word of mouth, and the game offers a social element. “People are so enamored with it that they just want other people to share it with them and to show their friends. That’s my assumption about why it’s been growing so much.” He added that Gorilla Tag’s VR platform helps with the immersion. “It’s almost crazy to me that VR hasn’t already taken over the world … . This isn’t a just a video game that you’re loading up and playing — I think that’s why people seem to be crazy about Gorilla Tag.”
David Yee, COO of Another Axiom, told GamesBeat, “Contrary to a lot of public discourse, VR is in a really really good place right now and things are getting better. As Kerestell often points out, the hardware is already amazing at what it can do. That Gorilla Tag can be a success means VR is successful. A message we want to share for the VR industry is that it’s possible for developers to have a meaningful hit in VR and the audience wants content.”
Gorilla Tag is currently available on the Meta Quest store and Steam, and it’s free to play on both stores. It also offers in-app purchases.
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