Is Beat Saber the VR "Killer App" We've Been Waiting For?

Typically a term used for consoles, a "Killer App" is the game released on that respective console that is just so good that gamers just have to cave in and buy that console in order to play that game. Nintendo has always had Zelda and Mario games as their killer apps, Microsoft has had Halo and Gears of War, and Sony has had Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted, and The Last of Us. Over the last few years, people have been wondering if VR would get a killer app. There have been a lot of standout VR games over the last couple of years like Rec Room, Lone Echo, Arizona Sunshine, and GORN among others like the recently released Skyrim VR, none have quite assumed the mantle of VR's killer app. Maybe we have that game now with the release of Beat Saber.

Before it's release on May 1st, Beat Saber had some viral success on subreddits like /r/vive, /r/oculus, and /r/games as well as non-gaming related ones like /r/videos. It also had a lot of viral success on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.  With the help of LIV Inc and their LIV Client for making mixed reality VR videos, there were some videos released showing the player doing some impressive moves while playing through some catchy EDM music. One of the first videos LIV made for Beat Saber that went viral is the one shown below that currently has over 1.5 million views on YouTube.

All of the prerelease viral hype that the game had built up was put to the test, and it passed. People voted with their wallets and the game is now one of the most successful VR games just after 48 hours. As you'll see in the image below, the game is (as of the publishing of this article) sitting at a 99% positive review score based on 1,087 reviews. To give that some perspective,  Skyrim VR, which released a month before Beat Saber and is one of the most successful VR ports of one of the most popular games of the last seven years, has only 1,255 reviews, of which 86% are positive. Yes, a game made by only two developers from the Czech Republic got almost as many Steam reviews in just two days as one of the largest players in the gaming world did with their third VR release that even had commercials playing on not just YouTube ads but also on TV over 30 days. 

You may be saying that Steam reviews (quantity and positive vs negative) are not an exact science and can't be the end all be all way to quantify the success of a game, and you'd be right, but it doesn't mean we should ignore them. Recently, Valve made changes to Steam that prevent us from seeing the rough sales numbers of games on Steam, so we can't use that anymore. Also, both of these games released on platforms other than just Steam; both released on Oculus Home and Sony's PSVR. Again though, for the purposes of this article, Steam reviews are a good enough gauge to get an understanding as to their success.

It's too early to know if Beat Saber will continue to be a massive success or if we're just in the honeymoon period and it bombs afterwards. The game is technically in Steam Early Access and has additional songs coming out (which is really the only negative you'll see people mention for the game having only 10 songs) as well as a custom track creation mode that will release later as well. With that additional content, it's a safe bet that the success of Beat Saber will stay strong even six months from now. I believe one of the keys to its success now and later is the simple gameplay mechanics. I describe the game to my friends and family as Guitar Hero meets Fruit Ninja, both are hugely successful games. Everyone loves music and the controls are very simple (other than navigating the menus with just a simple pull of the trigger, once you're in the levels there are no button controls, just slicing). This is what will allow Beat Saber to extend beyond the success of titles like Lone Echo, GORN, Skyrim, and the others. It has no story, just jump in and out levels that can be completed in two minutes, no gore, no controls to memorize, no character stats or inventory to manage, just listen and slice. 

For those of you who have managed to stick through the article to the end, I thank you and I hope that you enjoyed reading through it. Please leave your comments below as I love a good discussion and debate. As a treat, here's a video of my mom playing through Beat Saber. She has played VR before but it had been a very long time since she had and I knew (for the reasons I listed in the paragraph above) that it was the perfect game to get her back into VR one more time.