Jason Rubin is the founder of the acclaimed Naughty Dog video game studio and is known as the “father” of the legendary Crash Bandicoot series, but most recently Rubin has become head of platform for Oculus Studios.
Oculus Studios is a division of Oculus proper that has financed and helped to facilitate many of the Rift’s 30 launch titles and beyond. During an interview with UploadVR at an Oculus press event Rubin explained that he does not consider Oculus Studios to fit the mold of a traditional video game publisher.
“Oculus Studios’ mission is to make sure enough good titles are coming to the Rift. If at some point in the future enough good titles are coming to the Rift without Oculus Studios – I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re need at that point. The goal of Oculus Studios is not to become a publisher that’s why we don’t call ourselves a publisher that’s why we call ourselves a producer.”
Traditional video game publishers provide funding and distribution for video game concepts in exchange for ownership of the IP and a steep cut of the game’s overall profits. While it is true that Oculus Studios has helped to fund over a dozen titles of the Rift’s early library, Rubin states that he does not expect the same sort of exclusivity that a traditional publisher might.
“I don’t care how it happens [making these games]. They [the Oculus funded studios] all own their own IP. If they want to bring the sequels out on someone else’s platform – awesome – that’s good for VR.”
Rubin’s open-minded opinions on exclusivity even extends to the supported tiles that he and his team have poured their time and money into as well:
“You might. You might see them on other platforms. Oculus really believes in pushing VR…if you’re not doing that I don’t see a justification to help you out because that’s not helping the industry.”
That line for Rubin is crossed when a studio accepting money from Oculus stop pushing to support VR and start pushing to support themselves:
“We don’t want to end up in a situation where Oculus is funding content, building the business, giving it to other parties and they say ‘awesome well go cut the price instead of making games.’ We want to induce them to compete.”
The bottom line for Rubin is that content needs to be exemplary in order for any type of VR hardware adoption to take place.
“If the platform has its rough edges but the content is unbelievable, awesome the consumer will live with it. If the platform is eh and I go into the content and I’m bored to death, thats not gonna work. So content generally speaking is king,” he said.
Other content platforms such as Sony’s Playstation have a stable of “first party” studios that are owned outright by the platform and produce content solely for that system. When asked if Oculus has similar plans for a studio like Gunfire Games which is developing Chronos – his response was a mixed bag.
“I don’t know what we’ll do in the future. I will say this. We’ve been really successful letting the studios do their own thing … a lot of them are coming back to us. We don’t need to own the studios. I sold Naughty Dog to Sony. I understand that that relationship worked for both parties. I don’t see that working for Oculus,” he said.
Acquiring studios may help Oculus avoid a similar situation to what it experienced with EVE: Valkyrie. That game was originally an Oculus exclusive but it has since branched off onto other VR platforms like the PSVR. For Rubin that incident has done little to push him toward crafting more aggressive exclusivity agreements with Oculus supported studios.
“Every title has its own story. EVE became a much bigger game. CCP has done a fantastic job it kind of became their title. There are no rules its just about getting content to consumers. Any lawyer will tell you a contract can be changed. If there becomes a reason in the future that makes sense – we’re in it for VR,” Rubin said.
Rubin’s response when asked if his team is still gung-ho about producing new titles for the Rift, or if the focus will now switch to maintaining the current games, his response was, “Oh we’re gung-ho. We’re still gonna be figuring out things that no one has done before for years … Right now there’s so much untapped wealth of experiences out there.”