E3 2016: As VR Dominates E3, Oculus Continues To Play Dirty [UPDATE: Oculus Responds]

Update: Oculus VR offered the following statement:

 

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.

Original Story: The common theme across all publishers this E3 is virtual reality. Whether it was Ubisoft showing off Star Trek: Bridge Crew for more than 10 minutes, Bethesda announcing HTC Vive support for Fallout 4, or Sony sharing that Resident Evil 7 will run on PSVR at launch, every major publisher participated in VR to some degree. Its strong presence at the biggest stage in gaming has gone against the common notion that it's a gimmick, and simply another technology phase that'll wither away; multi-billion dollar companies are taking VR seriously to a point where they are investing thousands of development hours and millions of dollars into supporting it.

For the immediate future there exist three major VR HMDs: Valve's HTC Vive, Oculus VR's Oculus Rift, and Sony's PSVR. Although their goals are the same, to broaden the horizons of gaming with fully immersive experiences, how they have set out to achieve success is very different.

In the case of Oculus VR, dirty tactics have become commonplace. Post-launch has been riddled with controversy about how its ecosystem has been locked down to avoid competing HMDs from enjoying its best offerings. This began with an independent developer publishing a library that allows HTC Vive owners to play exclusive Oculus Rift titles. If nothing else it demonstrated that multplatform support is simple and being purposefully avoided by a few developers for one reason or another.

For the past couple months Oculus VR's exclusive developer support has been looked at with watchful eyes as rumors have appeared indicating that the company has been bribing developers with large stacks of cash. It's no longer a rumor, though.

One of the member's of Croteam, Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope's development team, has come out to share that his studio was personally approached by Oculus VR. He wrote:

 

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. And also because we hate exclusives as much as you do.

The post has garnered significant buzz in the VR community, resulting in over 4,900 upvotes and a dedicated post in the HTC Vive sub-Reddit titled "F*** Facebook, and f*** Oculus".

The story lends credence to rumors that Oculus Rift's "killer apps" such as Chronos and The Climb were outright bought out by Oculus VR, and would have otherwise been multiplatform releases. This is a tactic that isn't necessarily new in the gaming industry, but in the case of VR it adversely affects a highly sensitive market, one that has tremendous potential but needs every bit of support it can get. The research and development for headsets such as the HTC Vive have racked up hundreds of millions in bills, requiring large hardware and software sales to recuperate. After all, who will want to bother supporting VR if it isn't a profitable business venture? Hint: nobody.

Oculus VR's reputation has been in a downward spiral since launch. It's unclear if executives at the company, such as Palmer Luckey, are fully to blame, or if Facebook's hands in the pot after its multi billion dollar acquisition of the company is the crux of the issue. Whatever the case, the company is taking significant heat that could ultimately play against its best interests in a big way.

The good news is that HTC Vive has been received with open arms despite its abrasive price point. Soon, PSVR will usher VR to mainstream with heavy-handed support from Sony and its partners. Virtual reality has a real shot at not only staying alive, but becoming the big video game revolution that it desired even if not everyone is playing nice.