By Marco Verch (HTC Vive) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

HTC, the manufacturer of the high-tech Vive VR headset, have announced that they will be launching a subscription service for VR software. The company published a post on the official Vive blog to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of their headset, to thank their customers, and to announce the beginning of Viveport Subscription, a service in which subscribers can access five unique VR software titles per month. Subscribers can choose up to five games or apps from a curated selection of software provided by HTC, and have unlimited access to the titles they choose for the month. Each month, subscribers will be able to retain their access to the titles they chose the previous month, or exchange some titles for others.

The service is intended as a way to address the problem of discoverability, as it can be difficult for customers to find interesting and high-quality software to use with their headsets due to the large number of titles available for purchase. Customers can be unwilling to spend money on titles that they know little about, so the Viveport Subscription service is meant to allow these customers to try titles before they buy them while still ensuring that developers generate revenue from their software. According to Rickard Steiber, president of Viveport at HTC Vive, over 1,600 titles are available for purchase on the Viveport app store and thirty titles are being added every day. However, only fifty of these titles will be available on the Viveport Subscription service at first, with more titles being added regularly. HTC claims that these titles are curated, so they are presumably chosen for their quality and uniqueness.

HTC’s introduction of a subscription model mirrors the direction taken by software entertainment giants Sony and Microsoft

As internet speeds and hardware specifications improve, more and more companies in the entertainment industry are moving towards subscription models in addition to, or instead of, a traditional marketplace. HTC’s introduction of a subscription model mirrors the direction taken by software entertainment giants Sony and Microsoft, who offer the similar services Playstation Plus and Xbox Live Gold. On both of these services, subscribers are able to download and play a limited selection of games at no additional cost, and are provided with a different selection of games every month. Viveport Subscription differs in a few significant ways: whereas Sony’s and Microsoft’s services offer only a handful of titles every month, HTC’s library of titles available on Viveport Subscription is ever-growing; however, HTC’s service only grants access to five titles at any one time, whereas once users download a title through Playstation Plus or Xbox Live Gold, they have access to that title until the end of their subscription.

Considering the differences between the sorts of titles produced for VR and for gaming consoles, it makes sense for HTC to pursue this subscription model. Generally, VR titles are produced on a much lower budget than the most popular titles for consoles, and as a result, users aren’t likely to want to spend as much time with each individual title. Due to the low budgets and high levels of competition on VR platforms, developers are incentivized to make their titles stand out with gimmicks and unconventional features which, while entertaining, aren’t likely to captivate users’ attention for a long period of time. Therefore, giving users the freedom to choose from a larger library of games, while sacrificing their ability to keep more than five titles at a time, is a reasonable move for this genre of gaming.

Viveport Subscription launches on April 5th. HTC is offering newcomers a free month of access, after which subscribers will be charged $6.99 per month.

Additionally, HTC also announced that they would offer existing owners of the HTC Vive a free copy of Arcade Saga, an action game developed by an in-house studio, and that new customers can purchase the Vive for $100 off. The company also teased further updates on their blog related to “Vive Day,” the one-year anniversary of the Vive’s launch, on April 5th.

Featured image via Wikimedia