How Beat Saber beat the odds

Virtual reality is the ultimate money pit. Tech giants are selling low-margin hardware on which users play software that was funded by those same companies. This strategy seems to continue year after year without a hockey stick chart in sight.
While VR may still be waiting for its breakout hardware hit, there has already been a clear software standout. Beat Games released Beat Saber one year ago. The popular game is part Guitar Hero, part Fruit Ninja, and it utilizes the benefits of VR to let players slice their way through an EDM soundtrack, which the company’s music-mixing CEO produced.
While a few VR studios have surpassed lifetime revenue in the low millions, Beat Games sold more than 1 million copies of the $20 game after just nine months on the market. The title’s addicting gameplay has left it endlessly showcased across the web by game streamers, enabling a mainstream success that the VR market really hasn’t seen yet.
Beat Games CEO Jaroslav Beck says the title’s success is “dope,” but he’s more concerned with ensuring he doesn’t leave anything on the table, whether that’s expansion into esports or arcades or the fitness market. I chatted with Beck about what it means to actually finish a game in the era of freemium, why he doesn’t want to become a manager and how Beat Games has never raised VC funding.

‘Unlocked my head’

Beck didn’t come up with the idea for Beat Saber. Like a lot of people who have bought the game, his first experience with it was watching an early demo on the web built by a couple of tinkering Czech programmers.
Jan Ilavsky and Vladimir Hrincar had been building games together since high school. The pair had published a few games; their biggest success was Chameleon Run, a mobile game that won an Apple Design Award in 2016. Following that success, the duo set its sights on building something for virtual reality.
How Beat Saber beat the odds
Beat Games co-founders (left to right) Hrincar, Beck and Ilavsky
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