Details are sparse at this point but HTC announced a subscription plan for Vive content at CES today.
The company is not talking price, what content will be included in the plan or precisely when it will launch, saying only that pricing and content details would be revealed soon and the service would be made available in Q2 this year. But the reveal is yet another example of how HTC is aiming to grow itself into an integral part of the burgeoning VR industry.
The company is using the Vive’s speed to market with hand controllers and room-scale tracking to fill in holes in the VR market left by Valve’s Steam and Facebook’s Oculus. For example, the company’s initiatives like Viveport Arcade allow developers to license their content for timed use in new immersive arcades rolling out around the world. The Oculus Rift, on the other hand, isn’t even sold in China yet.
Similarly, Valve’s Steam is the leading storefront for PC-based games, while HTC’s Viveport is focusing on non-game content for its storefront. And while people are comfortable buying VR games through Steam, the prospect of a subscription model could bring a host of benefits for both developers and consumers. Buyers could potentially try out more VR apps, finding surprises they were unwilling to pay for on Steam. Developers, meanwhile, might be able to find additional revenue and attention for titles that were overlooked by price-sensitive buyers.
Both Sony and Microsoft offer subscriptions with their respective game consoles which offer benefits beyond the game system itself, including free games and discounts available only to subscribers. It is unclear whether HTC will follow a similar path with its plan, but given the apparent success Microsoft and Sony have found with the approach it wouldn’t be too surprising to see some emulation.
Frankly, I would have expected Facebook to embrace subscriptions first, with Zuckerberg’s money machine funding the ability to experiment. But as has been the case since its announcement, HTC is wasting no time getting its Vive into as many hands as it can before more headsets hit the market.