Let me jump right into it. Distribution is the Achilles heel for any content (games included) business. You may have the best movie, but if the theatres won't screen it, many people simply won't be able to see it and you can forget your millions. You might be asking yourself what does this have to do with Earth2.io – its on the Internet??? To which I’d shake my head, smile, and politely take you on the wings of a time machine to a room where Shane is negotiating furiously with Facebook and an hour later with Apple.
You might be wondering why these companies - what they have to do with Earth 2 ("E2"). The short answer is – maybe everything (the long answer few lines later). Today, you can have the swankiest app and yet if the iOS App Store or Android’s Playstore won’t publish your app, its dead before it even came out of the womb. To the uninitiated, these are content distribution platforms which charge a share of all the in-app purchases you make on any app hosted on these dominant platforms. But you’d again roll-me back and say E2 is just doing fine being a browser/mobile website. Its on the internet!
Now you’d be right only until the time that’s the case though. Once E2 goes to future phases towards Virtual Reality ("VR") that’s when the whole internet argument starts to crumble, because VR needs hardware – mostly the head gear and guess who controls the market right now for those – Facebook with Oculus Quest controls 39% of the virtual reality hardware market. There is really no VR without those headsets. To make matters worse, Facebook has been accused of predatory pricing in VR headsets when it recently cut prices from $399 to $299.
So why is that important you are probably wondering?
"ImmersiON VRelia Virtual Reality Headset" by pestoverde is licensed with CC BY 2.0.
Because, Oculus is a platform just like the app store. Many industry experts have been quoted saying that Facebook cannot make any money on the standalone headsets with such aggressive pricing and the real game is to make money off the content published on the Oculus platform. So ultimately E2 will have to get published on Oculus or some VR platform so that we can actually play the game with our cheap VR sets on.
Hmm, yea so what’s the problem.
The worst part is the way many have accused Facebook on the way it runs the platform by competing against the software developers who host their VR apps on the platform. Some of the publishers have found to their horror that in some cases Facebook took down their app on the pretext of security issues only to find an exact replica of their idea published by Facebook themselves. Below is an account:
"Virtual Reality" by fotologic is licensed with CC BY 2.0.
“Our industry is getting eaten alive by Facebook,” says Cix Liv, who co-founded Yur Inc., which makes technology that can be integrated into Oculus games to track fitness metrics. “Any application that has a chance of being mildly competitive with them, they have to kill it somehow.” Liv worked day and night for months (reminds me of Shane the inshomniac) to satisfy Facebook’s security, privacy and performance benchmarks to get that green tick and make it to the Oculus app store. Even as Yur was available on other platforms, it couldn’t get it into the Oculus store even though Liv says they met Facebook’s requirements.
Facebook soon released a software update for Oculus that prevented Yur’s technology from working within games, according to Liv. Subsequent updates required users to delete the Yur app in order to get the Oculus headset working again.
Then a few months later, Facebook released its own fitness tracker called Oculus Move that Liv says had the same look and functionality as Yur’s product. He accused Facebook of effectively killing his product by keeping it out of the store and breaking its functionality, all while working to copy his technology.
Is Earth2.io doomed if Facebook builds its own Earth 2 and puts it on Oculus?
"left out by virtual reality" by Will Lion is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
It depends… on a lot of things. For starters, Facebook already has something called Facebook Horizon. Earth2’s vision is much bigger and more ambitious. Also, while Facebook has devoted a whole army to its VR ambitions (10k of them – almost the size of the entire Greek army back in the day when Xerxes invaded), the moat lies in the game engine that Earth2.io is developing and whether E2 is able to stay ahead on a bunch of things.
Second, don’t forget the other room I showed you where Shane was with Apple which is coming with its own VR headset next year and there’ll be Sony (PS) to the rescue as well! However, Oculus with its predatory pricing still is expected to be the big dawg – you simply can't ignore that big portion of the market and the average Joe will probably just buy a single VR headset and run with it.
"Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headset (feat. Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+)" by Andri Koolme is licensed with CC BY 2.0.
Lets be real, Facebook wants to control the VR universe and people around the world have woken up (literally) to the potential of Dubai… err I mean virtual real estate. It won’t be unreasonable to expect FB or a big tech company to create a copy or a completely different and bigger VR world (Milky Way 2 anyone?).
And yet, Earth 2 can succeed – it has momentum, the early mover advantage of having an idea as big as a planet, and the team seems solid. Yet it can also fail – if it doesn’t scale up the efforts (cant fight Xerxes’ large army unless you have at least 300 of your own soldiers), or doesn’t stay ahead on the tech. Because, well if FB feels its just too much effort/time to reinvent the wheel they might even try to acquire E2 (billion dollar ka-ching) and that’s not half-bad, really !
But if Earth 2 stays independent and assuming it takes care of everything on the product side the most crucial thing will then be to get its distribution going on the VR platforms - Facebook included. Because Shane – while content is King, Distribution is God !
"Samsung to release virtual reality service Milk VR in US" by Samsung Newsroom is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.