The virtual reality market is growing steadily and while market leaders such as Oculus and PlayStation have locked games to their respective headsets as exclusives, HTC is choosing to take a very different path.
As the creator of the Vive headset, HTC also has an in-house development and publishing arm known as Vive Studios, which actively creates software for rival platforms as well as its own. In an interview with Wareable, VP of global VR content for Vive, Joel Breton, said that HTC’s reason for this was it doesn’t “want to use content as a weapon and block out people on other platforms from playing the content we create or help bring to market”.
While Breton said his team “certainly want to make a great Vive version” of the software they develop, he added that they didn’t want to “punish” players for simply choosing another platform.
Breton stated that as the VR market is in its “early stages” he doesn’t believe creating exclusives is good for HTC “as a revenue-creating business” or for its developers who are “trying to help create revenue.”
While good platform exclusives are considered ‘console-sellers’ in the gaming market, the VR market is in a very different place. Console hardware is a secure market – it’s not so much a case of ‘will I buy a console?’ as it is ‘which console will I buy?’, so it makes sense to use exclusive software to try and sway consumers.
With VR, though the market is growing, it’s still short of hitting the mainstream – creating barriers for adoption at this stage has the potential to be counterproductive. Creating large cross-platform software libraries is more likely to see large headset sales. It’s when the install base is wide that manufacturers will have more of a justification for making hardware advancements and exclusive content to differentiate themselves.
HTC is taking quite a different approach to Oculus, which believes VR exclusives are the right way to go for the VR industry. Though Oculus VP of content, Jason Rubin, is happy for developers to reinvent the company’s games and release them on other platforms as “that is the way the industry works”, he doesn’t “understand the kerfuffle“ of making Oculus games exclusive to the Rift.
Naturally, at this stage we can’t definitively say which approach will be the right one for the VR platform. It could, in the end, be a mix of both that has the most beneficial results; while Oculus’ games remain exclusive to its platform, it’s open to other studios taking inspiration from its games and releasing them on other platforms.
Any inspiration Vive Studios takes from Oculus titles could turn into similar games for both Vive and PSVR, bringing the experience almost full circle. While it’s certainly a long-winded route to cross-platform releasing, the competitiveness could drive further innovation in the games we see released on different platforms.
Given time, VR exclusive titles may be essential for HTC and Breton stated that the company would keep its “eyes open on the market and see if it makes sense then.”
At the moment, though, Breton wishes to make Vive Studios a lasting label in and of itself, rather than a means of generating revenue for the Vive headset. Vive Studios is continuing to work on experiences for other platforms and will launch games on PlayStation VR “throughout the year”.
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Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.