The Assembly Devs Cause Outrage with VR Pricing

UK developer nDreams has caused a bit of a stir with their built from the ground up VR game ‘The Assembly’ which released on Steam and the Oculus Store earlier this week. It’s a first person narrative driven adventure game which can be played with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or the Playstation VR (which will release at a later date). The problem a number of gamers have with nDreams is the way in which they have priced the game because on Steam there is one version available as a 2D experience for £14.99 and a DLC VR mode unlock for an additional £5 bringing the cost up to £19.99. It’s not the most expensive game but it appears at a glance the 2D version is the base game and the VR option is extra when this is not necessarily the case. Further more, some people are suggesting the game being built using the Unreal Engine 4 has VR support built in which means simply changing a line of code to enable the VR option and that’s what customers are being charged £5 for. It’s a bit of fallacy when there are many other factors involved in making the game VR friendly over the 2D game which stretch beyond merely editing one line of code however, some people are refusing to buy that explanation and see it as fleecing VR consumers.

the assembly steam

nDreams has very openly stated that what they intended is to simply offer the 2D version for those without a VR headset at a discount seeing as players using a regular monitor won’t be getting the full benefit of the experience. Giving them an option to upgrade for the full VR version at a later date. This seems sensible enough yet at the same time hasn’t resonated very well with some people who feel the VR version has an additional premium attached to it – possibly due to the way it’s presented. To add more salt into the wound for some people who own the HTC Vive, there are no options to use tracked motion controllers (or plans to add support for them in the future) the game is purely a seated experience to be played with a Gamepad or Keyboard and Mouse which lends itself to playing on the Oculus Rift. Again, nDreams has said this was the goal all along and when they started development of the game two years ago there weren’t any options for motion controls at that time and they wanted an accessible VR experience for everyone.

There’s perhaps quite a bit of misguided hostility directed at nDreams where assumptions are being wrongly made in light of how easy it is to switch from a 2D to VR game and vice versa. On the other hand, there’s a bit of naivety from nDreams in the way they have presented the pricing to consumers where although their reasoning is commendable, the execution has led to negativity towards them due to consumers not fully understanding what has happened during the game’s two year development cycle and how the pricing is perceived on the Steam store page.

nDreams should have had a one price for all model to avoid such a backlash and could have had a middle ground price offering the VR extra for Free. It works with games such as Project CARS, DiRT Rally and many others which can also be played in 2D and should have been used here. If you take games like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter which also charges a premium for VR support you have to bear in mind the game initially released as a 2D game months before and had VR support added much further down the line (incurring more development costs in the process) which justifies the additional premium. In the case of DiRT Rally having VR support added after the 2D release and for free, Codemasters are a much larger studio with greater resources compared to indie developer nDreams so it makes sense they can garner extra sales of their game months after the original release.

At the end of the day VR customers do have a choice to either pay the asking price at launch which to be fair isn’t a massive amount, wait for a sale or simply not play the game and move on to something else. nDreams on the other hand have something to learn here and what’s encouraging is that they are taking all feedback from customers and recognize that motion controller support is very much a big part of the VR experience and something they will consider with future projects (especially when all three platforms support them). Hopefully they also have learnt that you can’t please everyone and whilst there’s a number of people being very vocal about the issues here, there’s probably a whole lot more who are quite happy with the current situation.

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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