"People talk about developers who have taken Oculus/Facebook/Intel money like they've 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." - Rocketwerkz founder Dean Hall, in a Reddit post patiently explaining the basic economics of game development.
DayZ creator Dean Hall's studio Rocketwerkz released its first VR game earlier this year, Out Of Ammo, for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets.
It was never a timed exclusive and it wasn't developed with any funding from Oculus/HTC/Valve, so it's significant that Hall evidently popped on Reddit this week to defend VR devs who do take funding or sign exclusivity agreements for their games. Fellow devs may appreciate his perspective on the business of VR game dev right now, as well as the frustration he expresses at how some VR developers have been attacked without reason.
"Time and again people are ferociously attacking developers who have made strategic partnerships, and you hear phrases like 'they took Oculus / Facebook money,' 'they sold-out for a time exclusive,' 'anti-consumer behavior.'" wrote Hall on the Vive subreddit yesterday. "There are some terrible assumptions that are constantly perpetuated here, and frankly, it's made developing for virtual reality tiresome for me."
He goes on to note that while he doesn't necessarily agree with exclusivity deals for VR games, it's not because it's bad for the industry -- it's just not, in his opinion, a good business move for devs right now because the VR market as a whole is still very small and risky. He also notes that Out Of Ammo has not (yet) turned a profit, and that he doesn't expect his studio will make another VR game.
"From our standpoint, Out of Ammo has exceeded our sales predictions and achieved our internal objectives. However, it has been very unprofitable. It is extremely unlikely that it will ever be profitable," he wrote. "We are comfortable with this, and approached it as such. We expected to loose money and we had the funding internally to handle this. Consider then that Out of Ammo has sold unusually well compared to many other VR games."
"Honestly, I don't think I want to make any more VR games," he concluded. "Our staff who work on VR games all want to rotate off after their work is done. Privately, developers have been talking about this but nobody seems to feel comfortable talking about it publicly - which I think will ultimately be bad."
You can read his full argument, which includes rebuttals for what he identifies as common complaints levied against VR devs who take exclusivity deals, in the Reddit post.
Incidentally, when we talked to some VR developers, platform holders and analysts this summer about this very topic, a dev who did make a timed exclusivity deal with Oculus (Other Ocean, for Giant Cop) echoed Hall's concerns about the financial risks of making VR games.
"Developing for VR is a risk for small developers like us," Other Ocean's Ryan Hale told Gamasutra. "VR is a risky, niche market, which will hopefully experience massive growth in the future. The capital, marketing, and other resources from partnership deals is absolutely crucial to help independent developers take and mitigate risks within a new market."