Oculus Defends Controversial Exclusivity Deals

By Anton Chua , Updated Jun 16, 2016 10:02 AM EDT

It just hasn't been a good time to be Oculus lately. First they broke their promises of DRM-free gaming with a poor implementation that actually resulted in games being easier to pirate. Now, they've come under fire from the gaming community due to an /r/vive reddit thread featuring Crioteam, the developers of "Serious Sam 2," who indicated that Oculus was paying developers to remain exclusive to their platform.

In the thread, in which users expressed their frustrations about Oculus-exclusive games being announced at E3, Mario Kotlar of Croteam chimed in to post. "They 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," he said. "And also because we hate exclusives as much as you do."

The resultant backlash and goodwill for Croteam made waves around the Internet, prompting a follow-up comment from another Croteam exec, Alen Ladavac. "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," he stated. "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."

Now, Oculus has spoken up about the incident with Croteam, explaining the reasoning behind such deals. Talking to Ars Technica, CEO Brendan Iribe explained that without the substantial monetary benefits provided by the exclusivity deals, many of the games which have thus far gone exclusive would never have seen the light of day. "The developer normally wouldn't be able to go and make these titles as big and immersive and deep as we enable them to do," he told Ars. 

In addition, talking to Kitguru, the company noted that these "exclusives" are merely timed exclusives. Oculus regularly gives financial assistance to certain games in order to help along their development or to increase their scope, and sometimes that assistance comes with the agreement that these games will appear first on the Oculus Store. 

The big question right now about VR is the debate about whether VR headsets are a platform, or just another peripheral or output device. Oculus VR being considered a platform means that these strategies could in some way be justified, but with pretty much every other VR implementation from HTC's Vive to Razer's OSVR being open for developers, there's definitely a bias towards the latter argument.

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