In the wake of Insomniac Games' announcement of two new Oculus-exclusive games, The Unspoken and Feral Rites, off the back of the developer's third Oculus-exclusive, Edge of Nowhere, the whole notion of VR headset-exclusive games has become a discussion point. In addition to this, a hack that allows Oculus-exclusive games to be played on the HTC Vive was specifically mentioned by Oculus as something they don't support.
To that end, Forbes brought the question of exclusivity to Oculus and Valve, seeking to understand just why exclusivity was so important to the former, and not important to the latter.
Jason Rubin, head of studios at Oculus, elaborated on the company's perspective:
"The view that exclusives are evil is based on a fundamentally flawed understanding of business itself ... That’s a completely self-interested way of looking at the world. In any perfect world, all content would be free and go to everybody. That’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where things cost money to make, and as a result of that, business decisions need to be made by various parties that sometimes lead to things coming out in one place and not another place."
Rubin adds that the amount of money Oculus as spent researching and developing its VR software - tens of millions of dollars - would discourage other VR platforms from spending similar amounts on their own software, as they could simply sell the result of Oculus' investment"
"So in a world in which Oculus invested the money and then said ’here, everyone should have it,’ we actually wouldn’t invest the money. We would stop, because there would be no reason to do it if everyone else was getting benefit. We would have to match their price, match their marketing, do everything that they’re doing. So that doesn’t work."
That's not to say Valve hasn't been investing its own R&D. But its own views on exclusivity don't mirror those of Oculus'. As Valve CEO Gabe Newell stated:
"We think exclusivity is a bad idea for customers, for developers, and for the long term. Developers can ship their VR apps on Steam regardless of whether or not they support Vive. We think customers should buy their VR apps on whatever store they prefer."
There are HTC Vive-exclusive games - but they exist because of the exclusive hardware functionality inherent to the Vive itself: its motion control, and its room-scale tracking. If it makes sense for a game to be Vive-exclusive, or Oculus-exclusive, Valve is still willing to sell it on the SteamVR store.
Despite this, Rubin is aware of the cold hard facts about making games for the first generation of VR: "The truth of the matter is, in a business that has a zero installed base as of the day it launches, it’s hard for developers to say ‘we’re gonna put millions and millions of dollars into a game’ because there isn’t a return. Those games simply wouldn’t exist unless somebody says ‘we think you should do these games!’ And those games then attract people to VR, and more people in VR make other developers who didn’t get that deal see the benefit of the R&D, and they get a bigger installed base to invest more, and that kickstarts things to the next level."