Survios has laid claim to a significant milestone in the emerging market for VR: the California-based studio's debut project, Raw Data, is the first consumer VR game to reach $1 million in sales revenue in the space of a month.
Raw Data, a co-op first-person shooter, is only available for the HTC Vive, and launched in Steam Early Access on July 15 this year. In a new interview with Fast Company, Survios has claimed that it is the first VR game to top the Steam chart, as well as the first to make $1 million in sales revenue in one month.
Further details of Raw Data's sales were not offered, but it would take 25,000 units at $40 each to generate $1 million before Valve takes its cut. At the time of writing, Steam Spy's data indicated that the game has almost 33,000 owners, with a margin of error of just over 4,500. Survios also claimed that at least 20% of Vive owners have purchased Raw Data.
"We saw a need in the market for a AAA title. It's more expensive than anything for the Vive, and more people wanted that"
Nathan Burba, CEO, Survios
The majority of players are clearly happy with the experience Survios has created, with both its Recent and Overall reviews on Steam being "Very Positive." In addition, Steam Spy shows that more than 90% of owners have actually played the game - a very high proportion for Steam, and still impressive even in the narrow context of VR.
"We saw a need in the market for a AAA title," said Survios CEO Nathan Burba. "It's more expensive than anything for the Vive, and more people wanted that.... By putting more money in [and] having a higher price point, we're signaling to users that this is a AAA title."
Burba continued. ""There's an opportunity to own a significant part of the marketplace, if you're willing to spend capital up front.... There haven't been too many big swings [at high-quality content]. I'd love to see another venture capitalist...take a big swing or two."
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz earlier this year, Oculus VR's Jason Rubin expressed a similar enthusiasm for "big swings" in terms of game content. People like smaller games, he argued, but a platform needs to offer more variety to keep everybody happy and attract new consumers.
"We don't want it to be $500,000 games this year, million dollar games next year, two million dollar...and take decades or at least a decade to build itself to the point where you can afford bigger games," he said. "So what Oculus has said is, 'Why don't we throw more money into the ecosystem than is justified by the consumer base,' which will lead to a consumer base that's larger, which will leave that second generation of developers to say, 'Hey, let's go build these games because now the consumers are there, and kick start that decade long process in a much shorter length of time.'"
"Mostly, I haven't seen innovative, bold ideas for VR from established companies. It's mostly small teams, like Job Simulator, like Budget Cuts"
Piotr Iwanicki, Team Superhot
That extra investment led to a handful of timed exclusivity deals with third-party games for Oculus Rift, causing an outcry in some parts of the VR community. One of those games was the innovative first-person shooter Superhot, which had actually pledged a Rift version to its Kickstarter backers back in May 2014, when Oculus was virtually the only company in the consumer VR space. When it came time to start work on the VR version of the game, Team Superhot was faced with the complexity of the task ahead, the "waaaay too scary" budget required, and the difference between the excitement around VR and the size of the addressable market.
"VR is still in a place of fantasy - not only in what works or sells, but also in the pure idea," Team Superhot founder Piotr Iwanicki told GamesIndustry.biz at the BIG Business Forum this year. "Many people that are excited about VR don't have a headset. They think about having a headset. It ignites their imagination, but they don't own one."
Raw Data was not a Rift timed Rift exclusive, but - as Survios CEO Nathan Burba highlighted - the sources of funding that allow for "big swings" are rare. Survios raised its funding from venture capitalists, while Team Superhot supplemented its resources by partnering with Oculus - a different route to the same goal. According to Iwanicki, these alliances are what allows small, independent studios to define the VR market, and push the medium forward.
"Mostly, I haven't seen innovative, bold ideas for VR from established companies," he said. "It's mostly small teams, like Job Simulator, like Budget Cuts; amazing, amazing work done by very small teams."