Last night, Dean Hall, the original creator of DayZ and current CEO of RocketWerkz, the studio behind VR game Out of Ammo, took to Reddit to voice his concerns about consumers attacking developers in the VR community. There has been outrage periodically over the course of the year regarding timed-exclusives, subsidized developments, and closed platform ecosystems. Many of the games on the Oculus Home Store, for example, do not function with the HTC Vive unless you use ReVive to hack in support.
“Reading through this subreddit has, over the past six months, become difficult for me,” explains Hall. “Time and again people are ferociously attacking developers who have made strategic partnerships, and you hear phrases like ‘they took Oculus / Facebook money’, ‘they sold-out for a time exclusive’, ‘anti-consumer behavior’. There are some terrible assumptions that are constantly perpetuated here, and frankly, it’s made developing for virtual reality tiresome for me. I also feel weird about this because I will be defending others in this post, despite our studio not making any agreements regarding exclusivity or for the exchange of any money with either HTC, Valve, or Oculus.”
RocketWerkz’ VR title, Out of Ammo, is currently one of the most popular and well-known virtual reality games on Steam, currently with official HTC Vive and Oculus Rift support. The game’s been receiving steady, constant updates, all for free, ever since it released in Early Access. It’s now fully released as a completed title with an upcoming standalone expansion on the way.
In his post on Reddit, Hall is very open about the state of VR game development as he sees it. “From our standpoint, Out of Ammo has exceeded our sales predictions and achieved our internal objectives,” says Hall. “However, it has been very unprofitable. It is extremely unlikely that it will ever be profitable. We are comfortable with this, and approached it as such. We expected to loose [sic] money and we had the funding internally to handle this. Consider then that Out of Ammo has sold unusually well compared to many other VR games.”
This news comes as a bit of a surprise as the developers of both The Gallery and Raw Data have gone on record with us stating that they have each crossed the $1 million sales mark on their respective titles, although their studios may be much smaller in size — the financial dynamics are unknown at this time. nDreams also expects to break even this year as a VR developer, although they have multiple releases across every major VR platform to glean revenue from.
Hall explains that multi-platform support isn’t as easy as some consumers claim to believe, stating that HMDs are “very different and it is more expensive and difficult to support the different headsets” than people understand. As a result, he contends that partnering with publishers and/or platform developers is what’s been going on for years in the game industry. It cuts down on risks and costs.
“Without the subsidies of exclusives/subsidies less studios will make VR games,” predicts Hall. “There is no money in it. I don’t mean ‘money to go buy a Ferrari.’ I mean ‘money to make payroll.’ People talk about developers who have taken Oculus/Facebook/Intel money like they’ve sold out and gone off to buy an island somewhere. The reality is these developers made these deals because it is the only way their games could come out.”
It’s a sentiment that rings true with what we’ve heard from other teams, such as Other Ocean, the developers behind Giant Cop. They’ve partnered with Oculus for timed-exclusivity after originally announcing the game for the HTC Vive. Conversely in the case of Croteam, developers of Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, a team member went on record as stating that Oculus offered the studio a “shitton of money” for timed-exclusivity, but they turned it down.
With the announcement of the VR Association, a collective that includes Oculus, HTC, Sony, Google, and many others, we might be getting closer to that open VR ecosystem so many people desire. Using the new Oculus Touch controllers for example, along with additional tracking sensors, the Rift is capable of roomscale support, which allows users to enjoy the majority of the SteamVR library with few issues. Oculus Home still requires the hacking workaround — including for Touch games.