Facebook Acquires the Virtual Reality Studio Sanzaru Games
Facebook has acquired the VR game studio Sanzaru Games which is behind the virtual reality hit Asgard’s Wrath. The new acquisition underpins Facebook’s intention to invest in its own virtual reality ecosystem over the long term.
Sanzaru Games has developed games for mobile devices, consoles as well as exclusively for Facebook’s Oculus Rift S virtual reality headsets. Some of the studios’ titles include Ripcoil, VR Sports Challenge that appeared for the launch of Oculus Touch at the end of 2016, the ambitious superhero arena game Marvel Powers United VR (2016) as well as the mega VR-role game Asgard’s Wrath.
Facebook’s acquisition of Sanzaru Games comes hot on the heels of its acquisition of Beat Games, the studio behind the VR hit Beat Saber. Sanzaru will now be part of Oculus Studios which is Facebook’s VR game division. However, the studio will still be run as an “independently operated studio”.
Sanzaru Games has been around for quite some time and is one of the veteran VR studios. It began working with Oculus long before the VR company even shipped its first consumer virtual reality headset. Its first title Ripcoil came out in 2016 and was built and released as an Oculus Rift launch title before even the headset had been bundled with the ‘Touch’ controllers.
The studio’s VR RPG Asgard’s Wrath has been its crowning achievement and was received with rave reviews.
The studio has grown tremendously, thanks in part to its development deals with Oculus Studios. It was one of the few indie studios capable of delivering large scale VR projects. Very few independent VR studios are currently equipped to handle large-scale VR projects making the Sanzaru acquisition a valuable one for Facebook/Oculus.
Sanzaru was also a good fit for Facebook because the social network has invested in large projects with the studio which has honed the developer skills and the capacity of the studio. The acquisition is also a preemptive one as Facebook would not want any of its major competitor snatching up all the investments it has made in the talent for its own platform-exclusive virtual reality content. In 2019, Insomniac Games which, like Sanzaru Games, had developed four virtual reality games exclusively for the Oculus ecosystem was snapped up by Sony.
The Studio Will Remain Independent
Oculus Studios’ years of collaboration and partnership with Sanzaru Games along with the success of Asgard’s Wrath were instrumental in Facebook’s acquisition. In an Oculus blog, the Facebook XR content chief Mike Verdu described Asgard’s Wrath as “a strong foundation on which to build to advance virtual reality”.
While the majority of Sanzaru Games’ employees will switch to Oculus Studios team, the studio will continue operating independently of the Oculus studios in both US and Canada. The number of employees that Facebook has acqui-hired is not apparent yet. Not is the takeover amount known.
Facebook is currently not commenting on any new game projects but in the Asgard’s Wrath Reddit forum, there is talk that there a successor to Asgard’s Wrath might be in the offing.
At the moment, it is not apparent what Oculus headsets Sanzaru Games will be developing for in the future, how these games will be set up technically and what target group Facebook will be going for. Following Facebook’s strategic realignment, the target platform should be Facebook’s Oculus Quest. On the other hand, Asgard’s Wrath was released exclusively for the Oculus Rift (S) PC VR headsets.
The Oculus exclusive title Phantom: Covert Ops can offer the blueprint for Facebook’s future VR game policy. The game is being developed in parallel for both Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift (S).
Facebook is most likely going to acquire more VR studios in the future. While Facebook isn’t divulging any details yet, it has said that it is exploring numerous ways to “accelerate VR” and that 2020 will be an “incredible year for VR game launches and announcements”.
Sanzaru Games is Facebook’s second VR game studio acquisition. In November 2019, Facebook acquired the Czech studio Beat Games which is behind the highly successful VR hit Beat Saber.
With Facebook keen on building its VR ecosystem, more acquisitions are likely to ensue. Some of the top candidates might include Polyarc (Moss), Survios (Raw Data, The Walking Dead: Onslaught, Creed: Rise to Glory), Vertigo Games (Arizona Sunshine, After the Fall, Skyworld).
There is also the Ready at Dawn which is the studio behind the Rift-exclusive space adventure Lone Echo as well as the e-sports Echo VR. At the moment, Ready at Dawn is working on a sequel to Lone Echo which is set to be released in 2020 as a Quest version of Echo Arena.
Facebook is promising for great games and announcements in 2020. Facebook is likely to make major announcements during the GDC developer conference set to take place in March 16-20 in San Francisco.