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Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney: ‘HTC Vive is a completely open platform’, ‘the open platforms will win’

Will VR gaming ever be truly open-platform? Epic Games’ CEO thinks it needs to be for success.

In terms of virtual reality (VR) professionals to take note of, Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney should come high up your list. The studio’s co-founder is a major proponent of VR and the company’s videogame development software Unreal Engine has been utilized by many VR developers. In a recent interview Sweeney discusses all aspects of VR, but on the subject of success he urges the need to ensure open platforms are at the heart of the industry, something that HTC Vive has embraced but Oculus hasn’t.

Talking to Glixel, Sweeney uses Apple as the initial example saying: “Apple has a monopoly on iOS hardware. That’s fine. But they shouldn’t be able to tie that market to a monopoly on distributing software, on collecting in-app revenue from software. I should be able to go to a web page and download a new Epic game to my phone without Apple’s approval.

Tim Sweeney

“I think it’s the wrong model,” he continues. “When you install the Oculus drivers, by default you can only use the Oculus store. You have to rummage through the menu and turn that off if you want to run Steam. Which everybody does. It’s just alienating and sends the wrong message to developers. It’s telling developers: “You’re on notice here. We’re going to dominate this thing. And your freedom is going to expire at some point.” It’s a terrible precedent to set. I argued passionately against it.”

Whereas HTC, with its Vive headset and Viveport marketplace, is closer to what he sees as the future of VR. “But ultimately, the open platforms will win. They’re going to have a much better selection of software. HTC Vive is a completely open platform. And other headsets are coming that will be completely open. HTC Vive is outselling Oculus 2-to-1 worldwide. I think that trend will continue.”

But what about Epic Games’ upcoming Oculus Touch exclusive Robo Recall? “Yes. It’s funded by Oculus,” states Sweeney. “It was a budget that could never be funded just on the basis of sales. So that enabled us to do some cool things. My view is that the Oculus store, which is an awesome store, should run on all PC and VR devices.

“Oculus would do best if they tried to bring users into their store by supporting HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and any other PC hardware that comes out. I think if they don’t do that, they’re going to pretty quickly fail, because you’re not going to want to buy a multiplayer game that you can’t play with half of your VR friends.”

Whether Oculus (Facebook) decides to create a more open platform remains to be seen, but some developers are trying to unify VR gaming across the three major head-mounted displays (HMDs). Studios such as CCP Games with Eve: Valkyrie or Ubisoft with Eagle Flight are managing to support cross-platform gameplay, but these are few and far between.

VRFocus will continue its coverage of Epic Games, reporting back with the latest updates.

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