Aspiring Gear VR game developers beware. If you plan on jumping on this new, interesting, yet still unproven platform, you might be waiving your right to monetize your product, at least for the time being. This is due to a limitation to the Oculus Platform that will be launching earlier than scheduled alongside Samsung‘s virtual reality headset.
Oculus Platform is the marketplace that Oculus has for its own Rift VR device, which is still scheduled to launch sometime in 2015 (if at all). However, because of the tides of fate, Oculus and Samsung have struck up a partnership that became the Samsung Gear VR, an amalgamation of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 hardware and Oculus’ virtual reality know-how. The Gear VR is scheduled to launch later this year, which meant that the Oculus Platform would also have to launch early. Unfortunately, it’s so early that there isn’t even a payment system in place yet.
Oculus notes that monetization systems are hard, and any digital app or product vendor would agree. They haven’t gone around to implementing that part yet, and early adopters will have to live with it. While the Galaxy Note 4 is an Android smartphone, and you can install Android apps, both free and paid, just fine, Gear VR products will only come from the Oculus Platform and the Oculus Platform alone. So the bottom line is, if you’re a game developer looking into getting your wares up on the Gear VR, you’ll have to accept the fact that you won’t get money for it until much later.
On the one hand, it’s a perfect way to lure more interested buyers, as the cost of the Galaxy Note 4 and Gear VR combo alone is already quite steep. But it could also spell an early death for the platform, or at least for the Gear VR. A platform is only as strong as the apps available for it, something that Samsung must truly know from its experience with Tizen. While some game developers would be willing to give away their games, especially if there are IAP options, OUYA‘s history shows that actually forcing them to do so will only be met with backlash. Of course, Oculus isn’t intentionally doing it and has just been caught in a tight spot. Hopefully Samsung, who is definitely knowledgeable about running their own store, can lend a helping hand, for its own Gear VR’s sake if nothing else.