In a lengthy Reddit post yesterday, DayZ creator and Out of Ammo developer Dean Hall sounded off on the "terrible assumptions" he sees VR enthusiasts making about subsidised development deals and VR development in general. Virtual reality is not yet profitable, he says, and developers should have the right to take any help they can get.
Above: Superhot VR, currently only available on Oculus Rift.
Hall explained that Out of Ammo, which his studio Rocketwerkz released for SteamVR in September, has been "very unprofitable" despite exceeding their own sales objectives. "There is no money in it," he wrote. "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 have 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."
VR development deals have been a point of contention in VR communities, particularly the increasingly acrimonious platform war between HTC Vive and Oculus Rift owners on Reddit. The issue came to a head back in June as some game developers began to discuss development funding deals they'd made with Oculus in exchange for timed Oculus Rift exclusivity. Some Vive owners are understandably bummed out by the fact that new indie VR games like Superhot VR are only available on Oculus for a period of time. It doesn't help that Oculus is owned by Facebook, a widely reviled brand in many gaming circles.
"We considered doing some timed exclusivity for Out of Ammo," Hall wrote of his studio's first VR game, "because it was uneconomical to continue development. We decided not to because the money available would just help cover costs. The amount of money was not going to make anyone wealthy. Frankly, I applaud Oculus for fronting up and giving real money out with really very little expectations in return other than some timed-exclusivity. Without this subsidization there is no way a studio can break even, let alone make a profit."
Related to exclusivity, Hall pointed out that it is more difficult to support both Rift and Vive than most people think. "It is not Xbox One v PS4, where they are reasonably similar. They are very different and it is more expensive and difficult to support the different headsets."
Hall also addressed the Valve-provided development funds Valve's Gabe Newell referenced in an email earlier this year, which Newell said Valve hoped would make VR developers "less likely to take on deals that require them to be exclusive".
"Some will point to GabeN's email about fronting costs for developers," Hall wrote, "however I've yet to know anyone who's got that, has been told about it, or knows how to apply for this."
Hall concluded by cautioning VR enthusiasts to be careful what they wish for when they review-brigade and otherwise attack game developers for accepting development funding in exchange for timed exclusivity. "You may be successfully destroying timed-exclusives and exclusives for Virtual Reality," he wrote, "but what you don't realise, is that has been the way that platform and hardware developers subsidise game development. If we don't replace that, there won't be money for making games."
There's more in the full post, which is worth a read.