Oculus Rift Exclusivity Debate Heats Up Over Serious Sam VR

The debate over "exclusive" Oculus Rift games reached a new pitch yesterday. The catalyst: Serious Sam VR, and the question of whether Oculus is attempting to buy up exclusivity for in-development games.

Serious Sam VR in action. Like all VR games, it's probably a lot cooler in the headset

Since the Rift launched in March, Oculus has offered a number of exclusive games for their headset. Games like Farlands, Lucky's Tale, and more recently Edge of Nowhere were either wholly funded by Oculus or were developed by in-house Oculus studios. They can only be bought through the Oculus store and will only run on the Rift — Oculus recently stamped out a functional bypass to software platform checks — despite the fact that the rival HTC Vive could theoretically run them just fine. This has understandably upset a lot of PC gamers, who view the Rift — and VR headsets in general — more as PC peripherals than as distinct platforms with their own discrete software.

Yesterday, in the midst of another user's more general Reddit thread slamming Oculus and their owner Facebook for their various exclusive deals, Mario Kotlar, a developer working at Serious Sam VR studio Croteam, chimed in with a behind-the-scenes story:

[Oculus] tried to buy Serious Sam VR as well. It wasn't easy, but we turned down a shitton of money, as we believe that truly good games will sell by themselves and make profit in the long run regardless. And also because we hate exclusives as much as you do.
Dat shitton of money tho...

Many people reacted to Kotlar's comments with fury, in large part because, if true, such an action by Oculus runs directly counter to what Oculus founder Palmer Luckey told Gamasutra in August of last year. "Oculus Studios is not out to buy exclusivity," Luckey said at the time, "they're out to fund full games for the Rift."

Several hours after the initial post, Croteam's Alen Ladavac left a follow-up comment to elaborate on Kotlar's initial statement (emphasis mine):

OK, Mario, you've had fun here, now let's get serious. :)
I want to clarify some of the inaccuracies about our relationship with Oculus. Oculus did approach us with an offer to help fund the completion of Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope in exchange for launching first on the Oculus Store and keeping it time-limited exclusive. Their offer was to help us accelerate development of our game, with the expectation that it would eventually support all PC VR platforms. We looked at the offer and decided it wasn't right for our team. At no time did Oculus ask for, or did we discuss total exclusivity or buyout of support from Vive. We look forward to supporting Rift and Vive.

That's an important clarification: Timed exclusivity is still a drag, but less of one. We asked Serious Sam VR publisher Devolver Digital if they had anything to add, and a spokesperson sent the following statement:

Whenever there's great software there's always talk of exclusives, this happens all the time and isn't anything new. Of course businesses are always going to want the best for their audience and Devolver Digital is no exception. We've often worked with partners to bring our games to specific platforms, and we also support the developers we work with and their decisions for what's best for their games.

When asked for comment, an Oculus spokesperson responded thusly (emphasis mine):

We regularly offer developers financial grants to help fund early development of new titles to accelerate development or expand the scope of the game. In some cases, we exchange funding in return for launching on the Oculus Store first, with the expectation that the game will go on to launch on other platforms.
In the case of Croteam, at no time did we request that they stop development for other platforms, and we look forward to seeing Serious Sam be successful across the entire VR ecosystem.

So, everything settled, right? Oculus made an offer to give Croteam some money in exchange for timed exclusivity, Croteam said no thanks, a Croteam developer said something glib on Reddit and caused a stir, and now everyone's on the same page.

Of course, no, it's not that simple, and it looks like the debate over VR exclusivity isn't going to die down anytime soon. Oculus is well-funded, and will continue to have money to invest in game development. They will continue to ask game developers to give them something in return for that money, and that something will likely continue to take the form of temporary or total exclusivity.

Many PC gamers will continue to look askance at that practice, wishing Oculus would instead allow their games to work on all headsets. Commercial VR is still in its infancy, and it makes a certain amount of sense to conclude that more games on more headsets is good for VR in general, which in turn is good for Oculus. Furthermore, anyone who buys an Oculus game must surely wonder if they're locking themselves in to buying their next VR headset from Oculus, lest they lose access to their back catalogue.

I'd love it if Oculus would opt for a more open approach; I'm not surprised they aren't.


Comments

    The rest of the industry wants Occulus to burn, and personally, I can't blame them.

    Been hanging for a new Serious Sam for ages, but looks like I won't be getting to play this one. Methinks Croteam is going to regret making this OR exclusive, should've been multi-plat with added VR support.

      Actually, I should have read your comment. Apologies.

        Nah, my bad, I didn't actually read the article.

          We're both in the wrong! Yay, internet democracy!

            this exchange was better than most articles on this site :')

              I know, they should be made to write "your worse than Hitler" 1000 time so they learn how to disagree properly on the internet.

    I got both a vive and a rift, the rift is just crap, half the time I'm getting sick because of the tracking or lack there of, why are people even adapting games for this thing.

      Do you have your sensor facing the right way around? Only possible explanation unless something is actually broken.

        I have both too, I was a KS backer. Rift is fine as long as you don't want to move around much. Seems to lose tacking and revert to the IMU whenever you turn around. Also has heaps of pupil swim(where the edges distort) I have had no nausea in the Vive, but get it regularly in the rift unless I sit in front of the cam on my desk. If I need to sit at my desk in front of my PC, what's the fkn point of wearing a VR headset.
        In addition, fracturing the PC platform to lock people into their hardware is crap and Faculus should be called out on it.

          From what I've seen, pupil swim is something that varies from person to person. I don't have much problem with it so long as I have the lenses properly aligned to my face. No nausea either, be it standing or sitting. I don't see what the problem is with sitting at your PC though, my favourite thing to use VR for is playing Elite and it's pretty fantastic.

      Clearly something is wrong there. I have no problems. Tracking is no problem. I can move about just fine. No nausea at all. And my pc is underspecced. Go figure.

      Last edited 16/06/16 4:45 am

    In the case of Croteam, at no time did we request that they stop development for other platforms, and we look forward to seeing Serious Sam be successful across the entire VR ecosystem.

    Hahaha. Yes. They are well-chosen words.
    'Oh no, totally - don't stop development, have it ready for all devices... just don't actually release on them until the timed exclusivity is over.'
    Equivocation.

    Last edited 15/06/16 2:57 pm

      Perhaps with some context though, there's another game Giant Cop or something which was initially built from one of the free Vive kits that got handed out and made available on Steam, but then they took out Vive compatibility once they got Oculus funding. Or at least that was the story doing the rounds in amongst the Serious Sam stuff.

        Wow. That sounds way too malicious and manipulative to be true, right? People would HAVE to be giving them the benefit of the doubt until something more concrete came out to support an accusation that seri-- haah, right. Internet. I forgot.

          No it is true, do some research. That is the point, it is malicious and why people are up in arms. People actually bought it from the Humble store as a Vive release and now have no idea what the outcome will be. Humble even announced that they are in contact with the developers to see if they need to issue refunds to complaing customers. Some damn dirty stuff coming out of Facebook.

        That story has already been disputed. Vive compatability was NOT removed. It became a timed exclusive. That was a case of 'the internet'assuming the worst when the removed the Vive symbol from the site. It was an assumption made because .... Facebook.

        Edit: While I don't condone full exclusivity in any way, you have to realuse that game development takes a LOT of money. Creating a working demo is one thing, but creating enough content for the full game is in incredibly time consuming. And then there's plough and QA on top of that. Ifor someone cam along and offered to fund that, any developer without massive capital to back them up would jump at the chance. It could mean the difference between getting the game out there or having it never see the light of day. Croteam are lucky enough to have the capital to fully fund their own game.

        Last edited 16/06/16 4:36 am

          ...reply fail? I'm haven't disagreed with anything you said :P

    I must admit I keep finding myself turned off by the behavior of Occulus since their buyout by Facebook. If I do end up buying into VR I think I'll be careful to spend my money elsewhere.

    Isnt the Vive doing exactly the same thing now? Why all the hate for Occulus just because it has more exclusives? Personally im all for an alternative to Steam with the Occulus curated store - Steam is outdated and way behind the times and needs a complete overhall not just in design but programming..

    While I am not a huge fan of hardware exclusives on the PC, when you think about it, its just like consoles. They would be funding all these titles and be looking for a return on the investment. Its a win for the Dev for the extra funding, win for Occulus for the investment, just a loss for those with Vive or hardware, which lets face it, sucks.. But is the nature of the beast at the moment.

      I'm not up to speed with all the latest, but doesn't the Vive actually have unique control inputs that would be pretty difficult to port support over to for Occulus et al?

        The Serious Sam series has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a tech demo created by a fledgling indie studio in Croatia. What started as a demonstration of programming power by a handful of childhood friends working at home has turned into an iconic shooter series known around the world. Now, you get to experience Serious Sam Public Test 2, the early beta test that was released while the game was being developed.

      That's where some of the debate is. Is it a system or accessory?
      A console is a system you can run in any compatible tv. I don't need a Sony tv for my Sony playstation. Games are exclusive to the console not the attached hardware.
      PC hardware exclusives are a bit urg for me, can you imagine buying a game and have it say sorry you have an nVidia card, this game is for AMD only.

    It still boggles my mind that VR headset exclusivity is actually a thing. If it were the case that the game had features unique to one headset but was still playable on all other headsets I'd have no problem. There is absolutely no reason for an entire game to be headset exclusive though other than greed, pure and simple. I want the VR market to be like the Android market, you buy a headset based on its particular features and performance but any VR apps can be run on them.

    Last edited 15/06/16 3:39 pm

      This has understandably upset a lot of PC gamers, who view the Rift — and VR headsets in general — more as PC peripherals than as distinct platforms with their own discrete software.

      God knows that's the assumption I started out with and considered to be perfectly reasonable... and is how I was expecting the whole VR thing to get the ball rolling.

      Time and effort are reasons too. Which in turn require money. Most of the exclusive games are built on the Oculus SDK so need extra work to implement the Vive's SDK as well which will come later. Though the "we are not currently working on that" PR line seems to ruffle a lot of feathers.

    At this early stage exclusives are going to hurt VR in general. There are so many nay sayers.
    Then again, I think exclusives suck in general. Hippy-lovein-games-for-everyone...
    But seriously, I want VR to succeed so badly, it is going to be like when the internet became a thing (and LAN parties slowly stopped being a thing).

      Kinda reinforces the 'let the early adopters fight it out' idea atm.

    The Oculus store only supports one SDK, that SDK does not work on any other headset, and it is the only one that works through the Oculus Home/Storefront. Even though they aren't explicitly stopping a company from developing for the Vive, they ARE asking them to work on two different SDKs if they want to eventually release on the Vive, and the incentive to develop for both at the same time is lessened by the timed nature of the exclusivity.

    The focus will naturally shift towards Oculus and their SDK regardless of an explicit agreement. Yes, Oculus can claim they aren't requiring exclusivity in totality, but if the current setup of their store and SDK is walled off for all but their own gear, then that is what they are effectively buying.

    It seems to me that Oculus doesn't have faith in their Home software or their Rift hardware to stand on their own in an open market. They seem intent on deriving sales not from having useful systems that draw people in but closed systems that stop people leaving.

      This is not so much a battle of the headsets as a battle for setting the standard for SDKs. People forget that very early 3D cards had a few exclusives as well. There were multiple SDKs floating around until they all settled on DirectX as the standard SDK. Perhaps that's what it'll take here.

    Bleh Croteams games are pretty bad anyway, talos principle anyone?
    Doesn't really seem like a big deal, and i don't think the schlock they call a game is going to be any better in vr.
    Sorry for being overly negative but their games really arnt anything to go nuts about.

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