John Carmack reveals the formula for Beat Saber’s success

John Carmack reveals Beat Saber's formula for success

Image: Meta

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It’s no coincidence that Beat Saber is the most successful VR game, says John Carmack. And he explains what makes it so successful.

Beat Saber has sold more than four million copies since its release in May 2018, and the VR game has earned over $ 100 million on the Quest platform alone. These are impressive numbers, which dwarf any other VR title and prompt Meta to buy the Czech studio in 2019. Currently, Meta Quest 2 is also sold as a bundle with Beat Saber.

Nobody had foreseen that VR gaming would be so successful. Not even co-developer Ján Ilavský himself, whom I met in San Francisco just before launch.

Doom creator, former Oculus head of technology and Beat Saber fan, John Carmack, talks about VR gaming in a five-hour podcast marathon, explaining the factors he thinks contributed to the title’s fabulous success.

Beat Saber bypasses the pain points of virtual reality

Presenter Lex Fridman asks Carmack why “silly and fun games” in particular have been so successful in the new medium. “It’s not just that it was a magical and bizarre idea. It was something that played almost perfectly with what turned out to be the real strengths of virtual reality, ”says Carmack.

One of the things the programmer refers to is the how Beat Saber uses VR controllers. In VR, many hand interactions would feel unnatural, like having to press buttons to pick up a virtual object. Table tops and other items offer no physical resistance, which also destroys the illusion.

“Beat Saber ends up playing only on strengths. It completely hides all the weaknesses because you hold something in your hand and keep a firm grip on it all the time. Cut things without ever bumping into things, “Carmack says.” You have something that cuts, your brain never tells you, you should have hit something. You have a lightsaber here, you expect me to cut everything.


Carmack calls Beat Saber’s gameplay “a perfect storm”

Other success factors, he says, lie in the immersive power of the music and the fact that Beat Saber runs on relatively low-power hardware. The title also offers a satisfying game cycle it takes a short time to complete, he said.

Modern games consume an enormous amount of time and often require artificial locomotion – both are not optimal for VR, as VR headsets are still uncomfortable and can cause nausea when artificially moved.

In Beat Saber, you stay in place and it all comes to you. There is also the fitness aspect. An hour of Beat Saber or Supernatural is solid legitimate exercise, and it’s more fun than doing it any other way there. “

Beat Saber, Carmack concludes, is a “perfect storm of all these things that are really good”.

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