Developing video games is a risky business. It’s risky on established platforms like consoles and the PC gaming space. It will always be risky.
What about virtual reality? Well, according to one developer, that effort is even worth the time.
DayZ creator Dean Hall offers that his studio, RocketWerkz, isn’t currently interested in VR any longer. Why? It’s too expensive and there’s no guarantee of actual money to keep the studio open.
“There is no money in it. 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’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.”
Some games like SUPERHOT are taking platform exclusivity deals in order to get an actual financial return for their investment of money and time. And that’s fine, but not all games are open to such a possibility. Hall’s studio made a VR game, called Out of Ammo. It did well, but not well enough to turn a profit.
“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. We are comfortable with this, and approached it as such. We expected to lose 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.”
Developers need to make money to make games
It’s common sense, right? In order to staff a studio and make games, developers need to have some capital. Maybe that comes from Kickstarter, maybe they get a platform exclusivity deal or maybe they raise it themselves. Once the game is out, the business of the industry deems that it needs to make enough money to pay for itself and fund the studio’s next effort.
With VR, Hall’s making the case that that’s not possible for a lot of studios. So, they’ve had to make exclusivity deals, and some see that as a problem for emerging tech.
Are we looking at the over-saturation of VR hardware harming itself here? Not that we shouldn’t see competition, but it seems to me that players are spread over too many VR platforms to make any one game truly successful. The install base is likely low on each piece of hardware, so how will these developers ever make money?
Here’s Hall again.
“Honestly, I don’t think I want to make any more VR games. 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.”
This is an issue that the likes of Oculus, HTC and Sony need to solve.