Exclusivity is a complex issue for the gaming industry, and has been for quite some time. Although platform exclusivity of first- and third-party titles creates competition between the console makers, it also fragments the user base and forces gamers to either put up with the fact that they’re going to miss out on major triple-A titles, or spend money on yet another video game console.
All of that said, you can see why Oculus’s aggressive stance toward acquiring VR games exclusively for its platform has been met with some derision.
Now Oculus wants to explain itself.
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This week, Oculus Head of Content Jason Rubin sat down with GamesIndustry to discuss the company’s approach to acquiring exclusive rights to VR games, and how it might help the industry in the long run.
“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,” posits Rubin. “We don’t like that,” he adds.
Basically, Oculus wants to jump-start the industry by funding big-budget games today, rather than hoping that developers find success with smaller projects and slowly build up to working on titles that would fit in among the Grand Theft Autos, Call of Duties and Uncharted 4s of the world.
“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,” explains Rubin. But vital to this entire conversation is the fact that “in no case [is Oculus] asking to have control of the intellectual property in the long-term.”
He gave a specific example of that last point with Crytek’s The Climb:
“In the case of The Climb, there was no game The Climb. We went to Crytek, I looked at some demos they had put together, one of them was a climbing demo, and I said, ‘We should build a game entirely around that.’ We co-designed it. They, obviously, did all the hard work and they’re the developer, but that game was fully funded and fully conceptualized from the beginning with us. We consider those first-party titles… Having said that, they own The Climb IP. The Climb 2 can come out on any console, any PC, any anything, anywhere. We don’t own that.”
It’s hard to poke many holes in Rubin’s reasoning. Sony, HTC, Oculus — they’re all in on VR, and they all want to see the medium flourish. If Oculus genuinely believes that funneling millions into the industry for timed exclusives is going to benefit everyone in the long term, the company might as well give it a shot.
In the meantime, Oculus is doing what it can to get back in the good graces of gamers. On Friday, it was discovered that the company had quietly reversed its DRM which barred Vive users from playing Rift exclusive games on their headsets.
“We believe protecting developer content is critical to the long-term success of the VR industry, and we’ll continue taking steps in the future to ensure that VR developers can keep investing in ground-breaking new VR content,” Oculus told Ars Technica, but confirmed that it “will not use hardware checks as part of DRM on PC in the future.” A win for VR gamers everywhere.