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Oculus Has No Plans for Virtual Reality Subscriptions, Exec Says

Facebook-owned Oculus won’t jump on the VR subscription bandwagon any time soon, said Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin during an interview with Variety this week. Rubin said that game developers already generate significant revenue with VR titles, but did acknowledge that monetizing cinematic VR is still a bit of a challenge.

Oculus competitor HTC launched its own Viveport subscription service for VR games and experiences earlier this year, but Rubin dismissed this model as inadequate for the medium. “Music as a subscription makes a lot of sense,” he said.

He argued that the same was true for video, but not for VR. “Interactive entertainment is so different,” he said. Some games would lead users to play for 10 hours, while others would keep them busy for 120 hours or more. “How do you put those 2 things in a subscription and divide up the money?”

The result would ultimately be that publishers with good products keep them to the pay-per-download model, and only mediocre apps would show up in a subscription plan. “That’s not helping anybody,” he said.

However, he also acknowledged that it can be challenging to make money with cinematic or experiential VR. It’s hard to sell a 20-minute VR video that’s watched once or twice for $20 when the same amount of money gets you a game that keeps you busy for many hours. “There is a market that needs to sort itself out in non-interactive VR.”

Part of Facebook’s VR strategy has been to kick-start the market for immersive content. The company committed $250 million on VR content investments last year. Much of that money is being used to seed the Oculus Store, with Rubin saying that the company already footed the entire bill for “dozens of titles.” But Rubin has also seen independent developers make significant amounts of money with games on Oculus. “People can make a living, absolutely,” he said.

Rubin made these remarks on the sidelines of Facebook’s fourth annual Oculus Connect developer conference in San Jose, Calif. Wednesday. The company used that event to announce a new $199 standalone VR headset, dubbed Oculus Go, which will go on sale some time early next year.

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