Of Course, Facebook Bought the One Good VR Game

Illustration for article titled Of Course, Facebook Bought the One Good VR Game
Image: Facebook

Virtual reality gaming is a thing, but even so, you probably can’t name very many off the top of your head. And if you can, chances are the first one that pops into mind is Beat Saber—the One Good VR Game that any putz can enjoy without upchucking their lunch due to VR-induced motion sickness, or looking like a complete blowhard. So, you know, of course, Facebook was gonna put its grubby hands on it.


Well, as of today, Beat Saber now belongs to Facebook, which announced the acquisition in an Oculus blog. In an email, a Facebook spokesperson noted that “terms of the acquisition will not be disclosed.” That said, it would appear that the relatively lean Beat Games team will be joining Oculus Studios as an “independently operated studio” and its headquarters will remain in Prague.

If you’ve never played Beat Saber before, let me tell you, it’s delightful. As a glasses-wearer whose prone to motion-sickness, I’m not the biggest fan of VR. That said, I freaking love Beat Saber. If you’ve never played, it’s a mish-mash of Fruit Ninja and Guitar Hero, but instead of slashing fruit you’re rhythmically slicing through blocks with lightsabers. The 45 minutes I snuck away to play Beat Saber on some VR headset in the Gizmodo gadget closet remains one of my favorite memories of our new office. I was stressed, and playing through multiple levels to the sound of dope electronic beats was cathartic as hell.

So allow me to mourn this acquisition, even if the parties involved are probably happy about it. I mean yes, Facebook is probably pumping its fist because it just bought one of the most successful VR games out there—back in March, Beat Games announced it sold over one million copies just on the strength of word-of-mouth. Beat Games is also probably relieved, as it’s a tiny eight-person startup that has according to TechCrunch, eschewed venture capitalist funding.

But we’ve all seen this story play out before. Small Company With a Good Product gets bought by Big Company With Iffy Reputation. Promises are made, and promises are kept until the public forgets. New products aren’t as good as the old one, and often underdeliver on the grand promises made when the acquisition happened. It’s a narrative so tired and old, even Facebook had to acknowledge it in its blog’s Q&A section. From it’s announcement:

There’s a long history of indie studios joining larger companies and being ruined. How are you going to avoid that?

I’ve been in the industry for a while and have seen that firsthand. However, I’ve also seen and been a part of some incredible success stories. The story we aim to prove over time is this: An indie studio joins forces with some like-minded allies, and together they find a way to push VR to new heights.


I’ll believe it when I see it. For now, Facebook is promising that the upcoming 360° Levels mode will still ship in November and that more music options will be forthcoming. It also reassured us that, at least for now, the game will remain available on all non-Oculus platforms and that it wouldn’t slow down updates in a bid to prioritize Oculus customers. The company also addressed modding, which refers to players’ ability to create their own levels with songs that may not be officially licensed.

“We understand and appreciate the value that modding brings to Beat Saber when done so legally and within our policies. We’re going to do our best to preserve the value that mods bring to the Beat Saber player base” writes Mike Verdu, Oculus’s director of content, in the blog. “As a reminder, our most recent policy updates give more clarity to how developer mode is intended to be used, such as helping developers build their apps or for enthusiasts to explore new concepts. It is not intended for engaging in piracy or illicit modding, including mods that infringe on third-party IP rights or contain malicious code.”


That’s not surprising—Facebook’s a much bigger company and more liable to be on the hook for things like not paying royalties for music. But it is hard to take that response as a “Don’t worry, we’ll totally leave you guys alone. Keep on keeping on.”

Again, none of this news is super surprising. Facebook made its VR intentions clear when it bought Oculus in the first place—and buying the studio that makes a successful, popular game makes sense in the grand scheme of things. It’s just the sort of news that elicits a deep, shuddering sigh as you mentally move another product from the Good list to the Maybe Not As Good Next Year list.



Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.


There are other good games, and to be honest beat saber by itself is not that fun, since it comes with like 10 songs random electro songs. It becomes good when adding songs the studio nor the users have rights for.

Some are just awesome (the most surprising for me was Mr blue sky), others will (try to) make you follow the real dance (try thriller, rasputine or gannam style ... ). The thing is, just like guitar hero, this game shines when it is played with known titles, because people have good memories already associated with them and hearing the song makes them remember these. And that is a problem, as no one can legally use them. It is somewhat tolerated as long as it remains out of the spotlight and the parent company does not have money...

But now facebook bought it. That spells both “spotlight” and “money”.

There is no way a game like this can survive without these songs, there is no way right holders are going to ignore the chance to get free money, there is no way facebook is going to pay for it, and there is no way facebook will not integrate it in its ecosystem.

Meaning this game is most likely dead.