"I do not like that people are having to say, which of these VR verticals do I go pick right now, as a developer? Because I don't think any of them are really big enough yet to support a single experience."
- Xbox chief Phil Spencer, speaking with Gamasutra about the state of the virtual reality game market right now.
Are exclusivity deals good for the VR game industry?
Oculus seems to think so, Valve not so much. But when we chatted with a few VR devs last year, their answers were complicated.
Agreeing to timed or permanent platform exclusivity often grants a developer funding to make a VR game they otherwise couldn't, but the overall size of the PC/console VR market (think: HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR) is still small enough that it can be hard to succeed if your ability to sell your game is yoked by an exclusivity agreement with a platform holder.
Devs should note that Microsoft, which holds both Xbox and Windows, is still sort of tiptoeing around the VR market, quietly advancing its mixed-reality HoloLens headset as it works with hardware partners to produce a range of VR headsets.
But the company has said its upcoming Xbox console revamp, Project Scorpio, will support VR in some fashion, and during a recent visit to Microsoft Xbox chief Phil Specer expressed sympathy for VR devs facing the challenges of the current VR game market.
"I think that right now if you're a developer, you're just looking for oxygen to go sell your game," Spencer told Gamasutra. "And having to pick the winner in VR, this early, feels like a path to not having this space really take off, to me."
He went on to suggest that true VR game development (as opposed to adapting traditional console/PC games to VR) is still relatively uncharted territory, and that his intention is to try and create room for experimentation and learning, "as opposed to creating a vertical in the VR space to say okay, this thing is completely disconnected from the other things" in the market.
"My approach is to try and take a more open and inclusive approach to VR," said Spencer. "The problem is the other people who are creating closed ecosystems are probably not going to like that. They're probably not going to want to play."
His comments came during a much more in-depth and wide-ranging conversation with Gamasutra about Project Scorpio and the future of Xbox. It complements our in-depth look at the revamped Xbox and its supercharged dev kit, which was designed with cooperation from Xbox game devs.