Valve’s big boss and Oculus Exec share their thoughts on the case with VR Platform Exclusive titles.
Just a couple of days ago a reddit thread spawned by redditor elpollodiablo187 featured a screenshot of the emailed response by Valve founder Gabe Newell regarding the case with VR Platform Exlusive titles, this was after numerous VR Platform exclusive games started to grow in numbers, one in particular was the title Serious Sam VR which will be made for the Oculus Rift.
In the emailed response to a question thrown by the redditor himself who started the thread, Gabe stated how he is impartial to the idea of VR Platform exclusives and pointing out how it can potentially hurt the industry.
We don’t think exclusives are a good idea for customers and developers.
There’s a separate issue which is risk. On any given project, you need to think about how much risk to take on. There are a lot of different forms of risk -financial risk, design risk, schedule risk, organizational risk, IP risk, etc… A lot of interesting VR work is being done by new developers. That is a triple-risk whammy – a new developer creating new game mechanics on a new platform. We’re in a much better position to absorb financial risk rather than a VR developer, so we are happy to offset that giving developers, development funds (essentially pre-paid Steam revenue). However there are no strings attached to those funds – they can develop for the Rift or Playstation VR or whatever the developer thinks are the right target VR systems. Our hope is that by providing that funding that developers will be less likely to take on deals that require them to be exclusive
So essentially, what Gabe wants to do is to assist developers, may it through Steam or wherever, without tying them down and require them to create VR titles exclusive to the Vive, HTC and Valve’s joint VR Project. Which is a good thing, right?
Oculus on the other hand, through one of its executives, head of content, Jason Rubin, counters this statement, stating that VR Exclusives are good for the VR Ecosystem and will help in funding and kickstarting VR development for everyone, the developer and the customer. In an interview over at gamesindustry.biz Rubin compares the current VR industry to the old days of PC gaming wherein selling 100,000 thousand copies of your game title can be considered as a very big hit simply because there were not a lot of people playing Video Games back in the day. Rubin emphasizes that the role of VR exclusives, particularly with the Oculus is to speed up the growth of VR development instead of waiting for it to grow organically over the next decade or so.
“The average gamer is now aware of $100 million games. And while we certainly cannot build a $100 million game that takes four years, in the year we’ve had dev kits, we can try to get closer to that by funding significant leaps beyond the financial certainty that a developer would need to have to do it on their own. So, in other words, as they look at the market, they may say, ‘I can afford to make a game that costs $500,000.’ Some of that is me not paying myself. Some of that is computer equipment, music rights, whatever it is, lost opportunity for having a job. Vaguely speaking it’s a half a million dollars. Half million dollar games are great. Indie games are great. People love those games. But that isn’t the entire sphere of games that they want to see on a platform. As a developer looks at a multi-million dollar production in VR right now, they say there’s no way that will earn its money back in any reasonable amount of time, so instead I’ll go make a non-VR PC game of that scale if I want to because that’s a better bet. We don’t like that. We don’t want it to be $500,000 games this year, million dollar games next year, two million dollar…and take decades or at least a decade to build itself to the point where you can afford bigger games. So what Oculus has said is, ‘Why don’t we throw more money into the ecosystem than is justified by the consumer base,’ which will lead to a consumer base that’s larger, which will leave that second generation of developers to say, ‘Hey, let’s go build these games because now the consumers are there, and kick start that decade long process in a much shorter length of time.’ And, to do that, we have put huge amounts of money into the ecosystem, more than any of our competitors.”
It is also pointed out that Oculus, as a natural part of the exclusivity deal, also assists in funding VR titles and projects for developers who create “awesome, yet unfinished titles”. Rubin also adds that even with the current exclusivity contracts among some of the Oculus titles, they do not have plans to go long-term IP exclusivity, which means the developers can still create games under the same IP for other platforms in the future should they wish to.
But perhaps one of the problem lies in the cost of suggested hardware required to enjoy VR titles, as the actual headsets themselves can cost up to more than USD 700, while the suggested system specifications rack up to around USD 900 or more. It is noted that during its development, Oculus has stated that the price of the Rift would be around the USD 300 ballpark, a notion that proved to be wrong as the pricing doubled during its release.
Oculus and Valve are somewhat competing giants on the VR field, together with other companies such as Sony who just recently revealed VR experience spinoffs of upcoming PS4 titles which were revealed back on E3 2016, and while both companies do not share the same concern regarding VR Platform Exclusives, it can be noted that both of them do share one plan, and that is to assist current and future VR developers when it comes to covering risks and providing funding for future VR titles, and whether if exclusivity is a good or bad thing, we are still yet to see.