Meta made headlines last week with the announcement of their plans to shutter the acclaimed VR game Echo VR come August. Following this, CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth gave further clarification and John Carmack, former Meta Consulting CTO, shared his views on the matter.
In an Instagram AMA, Bosworth stated that the devoted Echo VR fan base was small, being estimated at in the low ten thousands. According to UploadVR, he said: “Alas, sustaining such a game requires considerable effort, and this is not a question of monetary returns but more about devoting resources that would be more beneficial to the tens of millions of VR users nowadays”. On top of that, Bosworth noted that Meta has “certain regulatory obligations” which add to the financial strain of sustaining Echo VR.
The game’s servers will run until August 1st at 1PM ET, after which it will be terminated permanently. While some have hoped that the company would make it possible to continue playing Echo VR after the shutdown, similar to what Velan Studios did with Knockout City, Bosworth did not hint at that being an option.
I will add one more thing on this — I know people are really focused on it, understandably — which is that we looked at [if we] can we open source it. And the answer is basically no. It’s very deeply entangled with a bunch of our systems and there’s no… It’d be even less cost effective to do that. Can we spin it out or sell it? No, because we want the Ready at Dawn team to be continued to be focused on these other projects that we’re excited about, that I think are gonna have a bigger impact on a bigger number of people on driving more adoption.
Furthermore, Carmack’s viewpoint on the decision to close Echo VR was conveyed in an extensive statement to UploadVR, where he explicitly and resoundingly rejected the idea. “Destroying user value, even if there are just ten thousand active users, should be avoided if at all possible,” Carmack articulated. “More damage is done to your company by taking away something precious to a user than the benefit received from providing them or others with something of equal worth. This idea of ‘user value’ is paramount for me, and ‘focus’ is just as crucial, with the concept of opportunity cost being a legitimate factor.” Although Carmack believes “Boz’s explanation was both true and sincere,” he also suggested some alternative options for the future of the game. One possibility was to drastically cut back support and entrust one developer with responsibility, which is a route Id Software took with Quake Live. Alternatively, he proposed setting a “unsupported” banner on the game and leaving it to its own demise, or making it open source, though these choices would bring their own unique problems.
Carmack ended his address by encouraging creators to make games that don’t require a central server, reasoning that doing so at the beginning of the process can help prevent certain issues during the late stages of development. Hopefully, his advice will be taken into consideration after the many announcements of game shutdowns that took place last week.
I strongly suggest reading Carmack’s full statement on UploadVR.