Unity's head of VR "can't make an economic argument" for making a VR game

Unity virtual reality sales oculus htc vive

Unity’s head of VR and AR says he can’t, on "an economic argument," recommend a developer make a VR game.

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Since the launch of the Vive and Oculus we’ve seen a few success stories, like Owlchemy Labs with Job Simulator and I-Illusions with Space Pirate Trainer, but they're in the minority.  Many other developers have struggled to make a profit with the emerging medium. Speaking to Tony Parisi, Unity’s head of VR and AR, at the Unite conference in Amsterdam, we asked if he could recommend a developer make a VR game in light of the sales figures, he answered cautiously.

"I have to figure out how I answer that," Parisi says. “You should be able to make a VR game if that’s what you want to do. Going with the evolution of the industry, any one of us could say ‘Jump in – there’s a gold mine here’, but we’re still in the place where we’re climbing up that mountain. 

“We have an expectation as an industry that it should all happen at once, but in reality, these things take time. The hard work goes into the iteration side – Unity is coming on board now and it’s nearly fully optimised – and developers are learning all the techniques, finding out what works and what doesn’t. Each platform is going to have its own set of challenges and its own set of opportunities. 

“If I could recommend anybody to make a game in VR I’d do it on the basis of getting into this field. Not on an economic argument. We believe in the long haul, we don’t know how long it’s going to take, we believe in the long-term success of this technology. But, in the meantime, I can’t make an economic recommendation. It’s down to individual developers and it’s got to be around the passion and desire to get into it.

“I think we take pains to communicate that to our developers. In the long-term, we believe this is going to be huge. We don’t know what’s going to happen between now and when we get there. We’re just working at it together.”

Parisi points out that this is often the case with new hardware – the user base is small so the potential sales are reduced. That’s why the stakeholders, like Oculus and Valve, are subsidising many developers’ costs. 

“It's pretty much like the early days of any industry,” Parisi says. “The technology providers usually subsidise the early development. There are some standouts where that’s not the case, but that’s what usually happens.”

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