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Have Facebook's Big Bets on Oculus Exclusive Games Been Successful? A Data-driven Look

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Facebook has purportedly spent at least $500 million to bring a wide range of content to its VR headsets. A portion of that investment was bet on big budget exclusive games, like Asgard’s Wrath and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, which aimed to satisfy a craving for AA and AAA VR content among gamers. But how much impact did it have?

While Facebook has funded a wide range of VR content, from 360 videos to non-exclusive indie VR games, the company has stated that a portion of the money it has spent on VR content was with the explicit goal of delivering larger AA and AAA titles to its platform that would attract gamers accustomed to seeing large scope, high production value content in the non-VR gaming world. These large titles represented many of the largest single bets the company placed on VR content, and indeed, many of the best-funded projects in all of VR, with some titles believed to have budgets in the tens of millions of dollars.

Defining Scope

Right up front it should be said that there’s a number of different ways one could consider Facebook’s Oculus exclusive content ‘successful’ or not. And, since we don’t know the budgets of each game, there’s not a clear definition for what even counts as the ‘big bets’ the company has made on content.

I’ll be clearly defining the assumptions made in order to answer these questions, starting with which games we’ll focus on.

First, we’re going to be looking specifically at the Oculus PC store since the bulk of Oculus exclusive content was made for that marketplace, giving us more data to analyze.

To look at the ‘big bets’, let’s start by listing all of the games the ‘Oculus Originals‘ section (and pulling in known ‘Oculus Studios’ titles that are oddly omitted). From there let’s only look at titles with a launch price higher than $30, as we can use the launch price as a proxy for how much value the project was expected to be worth (and therefore a coarse indication of the budget). There’s one exception to this rule which is the Vader Immortal games. I chose to keep all three in the list because they were released rapidly (all in the same year) and were effectively meant to form one complete $30 experience (in fact, on PSVR they are all sold as a single game with a $30 price tag).

This leaves us with the following list of 25 ‘big bets’ Facebook placed on VR games.

GameReleaseDeveloper
Chronos2016Gunfire
Feral Rites2016Insomniac
Edge of Nowhere2016Insomniac
Eve Valkyrie2016CCP
The Climb2016Crytek
Robo Recall2017Epic
Rock Band VR2017Harmonix
Wilson’s Heart2017Twisted Pixel
The Mage’s Tale2017inXile
Lone Echo2017Ready at Dawn
Arktika.120174A Games
From Other Suns2017Gunfire
Brass Tactics2018Hidden Path
Marvel Powers United VR2018Sanzaru
Dance Central2019Harmonix
Journey of the Gods2019Turtle Rock
Vader Immortal I2019ILMxLAB
Vader Immortal II2019ILMxLAB
Vader Immortal III2019ILMxLAB
Stormland2019Insomniac
Asgard’s Wrath2019Sanzaru
Sports Scramble2019Armature
Lies Beneath2020Drifter
Phantom: Covert Ops2020nDreams
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond2020Respawn

Defining Value

Now the question is, ‘how do we determine if the bets Facebook placed on these games were successful’?

From Facebook’s standpoint, these large exclusive content investments were made to jumpstart its VR content library, and to show gamers that polished, large scope VR games were available and ready to be played.

Thus, looking at ‘value provided to customers’ seems like a good approach to consider the ‘success’ of that proposition. Luckily, each customer has the opportunity to voice their opinion of a game’s value by giving the game a rating based on their experience with it compared to what they paid. Here’s how these 25 games stack up by user ratings:

GameReleaseDeveloperUser Reviews
Lone Echo2017Ready at Dawn4.70
Brass Tactics2018Hidden Path4.69
Robo Recall2017Epic4.68
Dance Central2019Harmonix4.64
Vader Immortal I2019ILMxLAB4.55
Asgard’s Wrath2019Sanzaru4.49
Stormland2019Insomniac4.48
Journey of the Gods2019Turtle Rock4.47
Edge of Nowhere2016Insomniac4.44
Vader Immortal III2019ILMxLAB4.40
Chronos2016Gunfire4.39
Lies Beneath2020Drifter4.35
Phantom: Covert Ops2020nDreams4.34
Wilson’s Heart2017Twisted Pixel4.32
From Other Suns2017Gunfire4.31
The Climb2016Crytek4.27
Vader Immortal II2019ILMxLAB4.26
Sports Scramble2019Armature4.26
The Mage’s Tale2017inXile4.21
Rock Band VR2017Harmonix4.03
Arktika.120174A Games4.01
Marvel Powers United VR2018Sanzaru3.88
Feral Rites2016Insomniac3.83
Eve Valkyrie2016CCP3.82
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond2020Respawn3.81

Comparing Value

So now we have a way to gauge how players valued these exclusive games. But how do we determine if it was ‘worth it’ for Facebook to have made these bets in the first place?

Clearly the goal of bringing these titles to market was to raise the value of the company’s VR content offering. By comparing the rating of each exclusive to the average rating of all games released that year* we can get an idea of ‘how much’ each game added to or detracted from that year’s baseline content quality.

GameReleaseRatingRating vs. Release Year Average Rating
Edge of Nowhere20164.44+0.78
Chronos20164.39+0.73
The Climb20164.27+0.61
Feral Rites20163.83+0.17
Eve Valkyrie20163.82+0.16
Lone Echo20174.70+0.80
Robo Recall20174.68+0.78
Wilson’s Heart20174.32+0.42
From Other Suns20174.31+0.41
The Mage’s Tale20174.21+0.31
Rock Band VR20174.03+0.13
Arktika.120174.01+0.11
Brass Tactics20184.69+0.62
Marvel Powers United VR20183.88−0.18
Dance Central20194.64+0.43
Vader Immortal I20194.55+0.34
Asgard’s Wrath20194.49+0.29
Stormland20194.48+0.27
Journey of the Gods20194.47+0.27
Vader Immortal III20194.40+0.20
Vader Immortal II20194.26+0.06
Sports Scramble20194.26+0.05
Lies Beneath20204.35+0.28
Phantom: Covert Ops20204.34+0.27
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond20203.81−0.26

So we can see that Oculus exclusives have a good track record at least of exceeding the average game rating in their given release year.

Outliers: The low ratings of Marvel Powers United VR and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, are particularly interesting. It’s easy to imagine that big budget games automatically get a boost to user ratings thanks to more resources for polish and presentation. But those two games are thought to be two of the three largest investments Facebook has made in Oculus exclusive content. What happened?

To an extent, this means most of the exclusive content investments the company made have positively benefited the overall position of the content library. But ‘how much’ matters here too; this is the year-by-year breakdown:

YearAverage Rating Difference Among Oculus Exclusives
2016+9.80%
2017+8.44%
2018+4.42%
2019+4.78%
2020+1.96%

It’s clear to see here that Facebook’s efforts never managed to produce content which exceeded the release year’s average by more than 10%, and the benefit of Oculus exclusives, against games released in the same year, dropped off steadily as time went on.

There’s two likely explanations for this. Either Facebook’s bets were getting worse over time, or non-exclusive content was getting better over time. While it could be a combination of the two, it appears that the latter is the most significant factor, which we can see when comparing the average rating of games in the library each year to the average rating of Oculus exclusive games in the same year.

Continue on Page 2: A Better Way? »

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