Facebook has acquired virtual reality game studio Beat Games, which will join Facebook-owned Oculus Studios to develop content for Oculus hardware.
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Facebook has acquired Prague-based VR game studio Beat Games, which will join Facebook-owned Oculus Studios to develop more gaming content for Oculus hardware, according to a company blog post per TechCrunch.
Studio acquisitions represent a strategic pivot for Oculus, which previously relied on either exclusively licensing titles from outside studios or producing VR content in-house through Oculus Studios. Further, it seems likely that Facebook will pursue other studio acquisitions as it looks to accelerate VR adoption, per the blog post by Oculus Director of Content Mike Verdu.
Despite VR's sluggish mainstream adoption, Beat Games gives Oculus access to VR titles that have already achieved mainstream appeal. Beat Games is the studio behind "Beat Saber," a rhythm game described as a hybrid of "Guitar Hero" and "Fruit Ninja." The game is VR's most popular and mainstream title: In February, after just nine months on the market, it had sold more than 1 million copies at $20 per unit, per Beat Games CEO Jaroslav Beck.
Rapid adoption was also likely due in part to the intuitive and addictive nature of the gameplay, which lends itself well to public performance: Esports influencers including PewDiePie and Jacksepticeye have live-streamed their "Beat Saber" gameplay, and NBC late night host Jimmy Fallon showcased the game in a session with A-lister Brie Larson.
Given the success of "Beat Saber," Oculus will likely pursue more music integrations in VR content for its platform as it looks to deepen the engagement and stickiness of VR. Last year, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey argued, in a piece titled "Free isn't Cheap Enough," that VR hasn't achieved mainstream status less because of the cost, and more because consumers outside of the core demographic — "hardcore gamers and technology enthusiasts" — don't stay consistently engaged with the product.
To that end, music could be a particularly powerful driver of deeper engagement with VR, as an experience enhancer. Last year, Facebook struck music licensing deals with all three major music labels — Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and Sony — allowing the tech giant to use licensed music in "social experiences" across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and Oculus.
And Beat Games recently launched music packs featuring songs from several mainstream artists, including Imagine Dragons and Panic! At The Disco. Given Facebook's broad licensing deals with major labels, it's likely that more of these packs will emerge in the coming months, with new game development potentially focused on building more social experiences backed by popular music.
By absorbing the studio responsible for VR's most successful titles, Oculus can not only become more self-sustaining but potentially accelerate the mainstream potential of VR experiences overall. Facebook says that Beat Games will continue to operate independently, and that "Beat Saber" will continue to be supported on rival VR platforms.
Although it's likely that Oculus will eventually make future Beat Games-developed titles more exclusive to the Oculus platform, by keeping "Beat Saber" open to gameplay on rival platforms, including PlayStation and Steam, Oculus can benefit from the game's continued growth since multiplatform distribution lifts all boats, with the endgame being to mainstream VR. Once VR achieves more mainstream appeal, Facebook will likely emphasize more content exclusivity on Oculus.
VR headset shipments remain on an upward trajectory, and are expected to be driven by greater adoption of standalone headsets: Overall, annual global VR headset shipments are expected to reach 21.9 million by 2024, up from about 13.7 million in 2019, per Business Insider Intelligence estimates.
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