David DeMartini, who formerly served as senior vice president at EA until parting ways with the publisher in October, announced today that he’s joining up with Oculus VR as head of worldwide publishing. That makes him the inaugural member of Oculus’ new publishing initiative, which has the stated goal of partnering with developers in order to help them bring their games to the Oculus Rift headset.
“What I’m doing at Oculus, it’s not particularly different from what I did for seven years at EA as part of the EA Partners program,” DeMartini told Gamasutra. “I’m figuring out how to partner effectively with big developers, small developers, all the way down to the individual who just wants to make something great for the Rift.”
What "publishing" entails in this context still seems a bit nebulous; after talking with DeMartini it sounds like a mix of developer outreach, technical support, and perhaps even financial backing. It seems roughly akin to Sony or Microsoft's initiatives to lure developers into making games for their hardware, only Oculus' hardware is the Rift headset.
DeMartini says that right now he's focused on working with developers to ensure that there’s a diverse library of Rift content available when the consumer version of the headset launches next year, and to keep a steady flow of Rift-ready content coming out in the months after the launch.
DeMartini plans to travel the world to meet with larger triple-A studios, indie developers, and everyone in between, but as of right now there doesn’t seem to be a formal system in place for developers who Oculus' help to bring their games to the Rift. According to DeMartini, the best way to solicit Oculus' attention is just to join its Developer Center
and get in touch directly.
“Right now, all I have to offer is firstname.lastname@example.org
-- using that, [developers] will get a quick and honest response about their idea. Is it innovative? Is it the best use of our platform? That sort of thing,” said DeMartini. “At the very least, the community will get an informative response and feedback on the direction we’re going.”
Given that Oculus is opening a publishing division, it seems inevitable that the company will eventually launch its own storefront for developers to sell software designed specifically for the Rift.
Oculus VR co-founder Nate Mitchell would not confirm any such plans, but did say that Oculus' Share platform
is going to be expanded in the future. If you've taken a look at the Share website, this is hardly surprising; it's basically a more vibrant version of the Steam website, except that you need an Oculus Developer Center to access apps and you can't actually pay money for anything -- yet.
“We’re looking at adding support for developers to charge for their content, and we have a lot of ideas in the pipeline for Share to transform it into a key part of the [Rift] platform,” said Mitchell.
DeMartini, meanwhile, said that while he didn't have any hard and fast rules yet about how Oculus might handle financial partnerships with developers, the company is open to making deals that include platform exclusivity clauses. Such deals could cause some minor market fragmentation when you consider that competing VR headsets are coming soon and VR games now have their own section
DeMartini is also quick to point out that, while his primary focus is on reaching out to game developers, he's also interested in helping to bring non-gaming VR applications to the Rift.
“There are other cool things besides games that you can do with the platform: IMAX movies, live concerts, educational programs, that kind of thing,” said DeMartini. "Going outside of gaming, how do I get someone in the travel industry to put up the kind of cameras that let us create a Rift experience of being in, say Barcelona?"
The answer likely lies in the company bank account. Oculus VR recently raised an estimated $75 million
in Series B funding, and a portion of that newfound cash will go towards building out this nascent publishing initiative.
“Last week we raised a few pennies, and that money goes a long way towards helping us expand,” said DeMartini. “So we’re going to be building out the team that supports people developing for the platform going forward.”
More information about Oculus VR's plans for developer outreach can be found on the company's blog