Newell says VR platform exclusivity is bad news for all

Valve boss Gabe Newell has issued a rallying cry for those upset over Oculus’ perceived attempts to fence off its VR platform.

We don’t think exclusives are a good idea for customers or developers,” he told one Reddit user.

On any given project, you need to think about how much risk to take on. There are a lot of different forms of risk – financial risk, design risk, schedule risk, organisational risk, IP risk etc… A lot of the interesting VR work is being done by new developers. That is a triple-risk whammy – a new developer creating new game mechanics on a new platform.

We’re in a much better position to absorb financial risk than a new VR developer, so we are happy to offset that giving developers development funds (essentially pre-paid Steam revenue). However there are no strings attached to those funds – they can develop for the Rift or PlayStation VR or whatever the developer thinks are the right target VR systems.

Our hope is that by providing that funding that developers will be less likely to take on deals that require them to be exclusive.”

The comments come at a time where Oculus is facing a fair bit of online hostility relating to a number of deals that have seen VR titles released exclusively for its platform. Critics argue that VR should be seen as an open sector, and that different headsets should not be treated as individual platforms.

It has also angered parts of the community by acting to shut down loop holes that allowed Oculus games to play on other hardware.

Just this week the company came under fire after it was accused of trying to buy VR exclusivity for Serious Sam VR, as reported by Kotaku.

One of the game’s developers, Mario Kotlar, originally claimed that: [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…”

These claims were later dismissed by Croteam’s Alen Ladavac, who countered: 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.”

Oculus itself had this to say: 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.”

In fact, the only dissenting voice came from Serious Sam VR’s publisher Devolver Digital, which in its statement effectively said that it didn’t understand the fuss: 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.”

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