HTC leans on Facebook’s Oculus as it tries to sell a VR subscription product

HTC is cozying up to its main competitor in the VR space, Facebook-owned Oculus as it looks to find a business model that will wrestle it out of the VR market doldrums.

Today, the Taiwanese hardware company announced that its Viveport VR subscription service has opened up shop on a non-HTC headset, namely Facebook’s Oculus Rift. The product allows gamers to download a few titles per month from its store on a rolling basis.

HTC has had a rough time finding where it can compete as a VR hardware company in a competitive landscape that is pulling in little to no hardware margins. Its answer has been to focus on enterprise customers with a high-end, overpriced headset and point consumers to a content subscription model that gives headset owners access to a library of titles and gives it the cut of developers’ VR revenues that have been going to its headset-partner Valve.

In theory this isn’t an awful idea considering that a lot of the VR owners right now operate firmly within the early adopter arena and would theoretically be very open to a model like this. The problem is that a lot of the people with Vive headsets purchased it because they liked the deep integration with Valve’s SteamVR, both its superb tracking system and its familiar Steam store. Most of the Vive owners I talk with think of Viveport as little more than buggy bloatware.

Because the software isn’t a huge asset to the Vive platform or at least one that could move systems, there’s no reason for HTC not to open it to other headsets and try to court some interests from VR users looking to power through some of the quite good indie titles that are on the store. A Viveport subscription costs $8.99 per month.

One of the big problems with buying VR content has been that some smaller studios are charging a lot for their early titles because it’s incredibly daunting to make money as an indie VR developer, this does lead to a lot of consumers being a bit dissatisfied with what they get though. This was one of Viveport’s big selling points, “try before you buy!” This doesn’t hold on the Oculus store as much after the company announced a pretty relaxed return policy last year.

Without headset-level integration, it’s not all that clear how the company plans on gaining a footing on the Oculus platform. Of the 1400 titles in the Viveport library, about 200 of them have been tested to work well with the Rift, HTC says.