As VR gamers, we all have one thing in common: we love gaming. As PC gamers, we have come to expect unrestricted access to everything our rigs can handle, and we have enjoyed that aspect of PC gaming for many years. So is it really any surprise that when a company shows up on our platform and starts throwing around words like “exclusive content,” the gaming community would do everything possible to restore balance to the land? Today, we are going to look at the impact third party software, such as ReVive, has had on the VR distribution landscape and the VR community itself.
One of my fondest gaming moments did not take place in a video game at all; it took place in my living room on Christmas day, 1991. I can still hear that iconic “SEGA” title screen sound bite to this very day. However, my fondest gaming moment is also tied to one of my most disappointing gaming moments, two years later, when I found myself with a Super Sonic hedgehog but longing for a fox from the stars. This would be my first taste of exclusive content.
With the console wars in full swing, the only option I had was to rely on the mercy of others, and that really pissed me off. Here, we had two sets of hardware with relatively similar guts, but because some adults in suits decided to slap different operating systems in them, they had total control over what I could or could not play. As a kid it was unfathomable; as an adult it’s less so, but still a pretty mean thing to do.
Flash forward to 2017, and, while the console wars continue, PC owners revel in an endless supply of content and hardware with the only limitations being performance gains and losses. We can even play most console content and even have software, with questionable legality, that allows us to play some exclusive content. Life is pretty good as a PC gamer.
The emergence of VR has thrown a bit of a wrench in the works, so to speak, giving PC gamers a taste of what exclusive content on the PC might look like. With two major competitors dominating the VR market, it is no wonder that each would like to be in control of the best content in order to drive sales. To try and achieve this, Facebook has invested heavily into exclusive content for the Rift and has made some pretty amazing games possible as a result. This move, however, excluded Vive users, and that was our first taste of exclusive content on the PCVR gaming scene. The end result came in the form of a little bit of software called ReVive.
As many of you know, ReVive allows Vive users access to Rift exclusive content by way of bypassing the Oculus store’s hardware check. This made it possible to play any game on any piece of hardware once more (with limited support, of course). As news of this software spread, Oculus worked on blocking it and was successful in doing so. But, after a sizable amount of community backlash, Oculus quickly removed their blocking of ReVive, largely in part due to the hacking of Oculus DRM only 24 hours after its institution of this block. The voice of the gaming community was very clear: they did not want hardware to restrict access to software and would open the gates to piracy in order to keep the land free of exclusive content.
As of now, Oculus has not changed its stance and continues to push for more exclusive content, but is not standing in the way of third party software such as ReVive. Recently, even the Oculus Rift creator and Oculus VR co-founder, Palmer Luckey, is said to have donated a sizable amount in support of ReVive. Despite Oculus’s stance, Vive owners are still willing to pay for those exclusive titles, even with limited native support. This is both good for (both) Oculus, or rather, Facebook, and developers.
Where software like ReVive aims to keep content distribution in check, others exist to open up non–native VR games to VR platforms. VorpX is one such program that strives to allow VR users to experience games they already own, but in VR. While this is certainly less controversial than ReVive, its impact could be just as grand in the VR marketing arena. Currently VorpX requires a fair amount of user input in order to get games running smoothly, and while that might not be a challenge for some, others have found it off-putting given the $39.99 price tag.
What the software’s existence, and more importantly the willingness of gamers to pay for it, shows us is that the desire to play more games (even existing ones) in VR is there and that gamers are willing to pay for it. That sends a strong message to developers and investors: the VR is alive and users are willing to pay for more content than what is currently available. The question is, who will answer that call and provide support for their existing games in a user–friendly way? Bethesda has already shown us that this is an area of interest for larger studios with upcoming VR support for a few of its more popular titles. I am sure I don’t need to mention any names.
The Bad in the Good Could Get Ugly
Unfortunately, despite good intentions, the potential for harm to the VR community exists with the use of third party software. Software piracy is nothing new in the PC world, but with an emerging market, such as the one in which we VR gamers find ourselves, it could lead to uncertainty in the minds of independent developers who are relying on games sales and investors to fund future content development. That leads to fewer games and less innovation. While larger studios might also avoid the risk of exploring this new avenue of gaming. This puts the image of the VR gaming market into question for both large and small studios. After all, no one wants to give away their hard work for free, and investors will be far more reluctant to contribute to future development if their product is at risk.
That leaves us with the question: is third party software good or bad for the VR community? On one hand, it gives PC gamers a voice in the direction of future software development, and a means for us to keep companies in check with our open design nature. On the other hand, it opens a doorway to piracy and potentially hurts emerging markets and smaller gaming studios. Personally, I feel that such software is neither good nor bad; it only opens (up) possibilities for both. The only sure thing is that third party software will always exist and plays a large role in both PC and VR culture. The important thing is how we, the gamers, choose to use this software moving forward.
So what are your thoughts on third party software? After all, this is your community and you will no doubt help shape its future as early VR adopters. Should the major contenders embrace third party software? Do they really have a choice? And do we, as gamers have a responsibility to use this software with caution? We would love to hear your opinions, so comment below.