CEO and Co-Founder Nick Fajt lends his thoughts on premium app subscriptions and exclusive VR content.
Last month Facebook announced the launch of premium app subscriptions on the Oculus Quest, offering users the chance to unlock exclusive VR content from select developers by paying a monthly fee. We’ve already seen several VR games and apps take advantage of this new service, including FitXR, Tribe XR, TRIPP, vSpatial, and VZfit just to name a few.
“One interesting VR trend is how quickly it’s growing beyond just games. Some of the top apps on Quest are social apps, and there’s a growing number of productivity tools (both for collaboration and solo use, like Infinite Office), creativity tools (like the DJ app Tribe XR), and even fitness apps (like FitXR and Supernatural),” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
That being said, the idea of premium subscriptions for VR games and apps is hardly a new one. As previously mentioned, VR fitness app Supernatural has been offering daily workout routines accessible via a monthly subscription since April 2020. Before Supernatural and Facebook’s premium app subscriptions, however, there was Rec Room Plus.
Despite having launched way back in 2016, Rec Room remains one of the most highly trafficked VR social platforms at the moment, thanks in large part to its growing catalog of entertaining mini-games; not to mention its low, low price tag of $0.00. In March of 2020, the company launched Rec Room Plus, an optional membership program that allows players access to exclusive content, expanded outfit slots, free tokens, discounts towards the official Rec Room store, and various other benefits by paying a monthly fee of $7.99. Several months ago the company took things even further with the launch of its Creator Compensation program, allowing veteran players the opportunity to profit from their in-game creations by exchanging in-game tokens for real-world cash.
With other mainstream developers now jumping on the bandwagon with Oculus’ subscription service, we sat down with Rec Room Inc. CEO and Co-Founder Nick Fajt to get his thoughts on the rise of premium subscription services and the potential impact on future VR games and apps.
What kind of impact do you see this new kind of service having on the Oculus Quest player base?
“I think what most people are seeing just in games, in general, is more and more games are moving to the services model. This is not a secret; you’re seeing fewer and fewer 60 dollar discs sold and you’re seeing more and more free-to-play content. And I think one of the things that any developer is excited about is if you can set up a great deal with consumers where you have predictability in what your revenue is going to look like, it makes it really easy to invest long term.”
“And I think it really matches the way we want people to be using Rec Room as well. We are not trying to bring you in and monetize you really quickly in the first three days. We would want to have somebody that’s been a customer for two or three years; they’re getting a really good deal and we’re getting predictability and providing a better and better service every month.”
“That’s what we’ve been thinking about with Rec Room Plus: how can we give users a really good deal? It’s the most efficient way to buy our virtual currency and it also gets you into the seller economy. If you’re in Rec Room Plus you can start to charge for items that you make and you’re also eligible to do cash-out payments as well. So we just think there’s so much value in that model; that’s the kind of the direction that we’re steering towards.”
What’s the response been like from your existing player base since the launch of Rec Room Plus?
“We’ve seen that number steadily grow over time. Every time we launch it on a new platform we see a very positive reaction. And it means there are more and more people in our seller ecosystem, which we think is really, really valuable.”
“I think we’re just going to keep pouring value into [Rec Room Plus] and hopefully make it a better and better deal for more people going forward. Every month you can add a little bit more value to that. You’ve seen it work out really well for things like—you know—I’m sure you have a Netflix subscription, and there’s a lot more content on Netflix today than there was five years ago. It’s a much better deal.”
“And I think you can just keep driving that as the number of people that are subscribing to your content increases; you can continue to provide more and more value for each individual subscriber.”
What I really like about Rec Room Plus is the ability for players to monetize their in-game creations. Can you talk a little bit more about that and what the results have been like since launch?
“Maybe back in 2017, we started adding these user-generated content features. The community was so creative and they were begging for some of these features. And that’s largely how we build our roadmap. We just follow what users ask us for. 75%-80% of the app is spent in user-generated rooms that these players are building inside of Rec Room.”
“We think that’s amazing. It led us to think through how could we reward those players who are building the best content. Then we started seeing players earning quite a bit of in-game currency and so we wanted to provide them even further incentives. And so we said, “Hey, we’ll actually buy it back from you under these circumstances.””
How important, in your opinion, is social VR to the development of the modern VR industry?
“Our belief is that the next big social app will probably look a lot more like a game than an algorithmic feed. All the social apps that exist today, they’re actually not very social; you’re not interacting with a human, you’re interacting with an algorithmic feed. That algorithmic feed happens to know you very well, but it’s not the same as interacting with a human. And I think that’s the thing that we see with Rec Room. It feels a lot more like there is another human in the same room as me and I can hang out with them. I can meet them and we can go on adventures and we can form new memories. And the reason I think that experience resonates with so many people is probably because our brains crave social interaction the same way that they crave food and water.”
“If you were to scroll through Twitter for two hours, you would not be like, “That was time well spent. I’m so glad I spent two hours scrolling through Twitter!” But if you went to a restaurant with a friend and grabbed pizza, you would be like, “I’m super glad I got to catch up with that friend from college.” You would consider that time really well spent. Why do our social apps feel like time poorly spent, but socializing feels like time well spent? Could we combine those two? Could we get this great real-time social interaction into the digital space? And I think you’re seeing a bunch of games experimenting with that and trying to deliver on that experience, Rec Room being one of them.”
Rec Room is available free on Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, SteamVR, and PlayStation VR 100% free-of-charge. Rec Room Plus can be purchased separately for $7.99 per month. For more information visit here.
Feature Image Credit: Rec Room Inc.