The Facebook Acquisition of Oculus VR isn’t Bad News
On March 25, 2014, it was announced that Facebook, one of the world’s largest social networks, had purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion. For the sake of those who don’t know, Oculus VR is responsible for the creation of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset with advanced features, such as head tracking and what will hopefully be a low price-point.
This led to an eruption of angry tweets, confused gamers and the general upset of feelings. The general perception is that Oculus VR sold out- sold out to the commercial handmaid of the NSA, sold out of the suits and Wall Street big shots and everything that the gaming community wouldn’t like to identify itself with. There’s plenty of fear that the Oculus Rift will become some sort of retina-scanning spying device that forces gamers to integrate with Facebook in some capacity and report their gameplay to Big Brother, all the while being inundated by advertisements.
With Facebook’s Oculus Rift, you will get to experience what it’s like to be in a room of targeted ads based on your Facebook profile
— CEO Kaz Hirai (@KazHiraiCEO) March 25, 2014
There’s no shortage of people saying that they’ll withdraw their support for the Rift. For Notch, creator of Minecraft, this was a dealbreaker. He was working on an Oculus Rift version of Minecraft- after today’s news, however, he has decided to drop support for the platform, referring to Facebook as “creepy” in later comments.
We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.
— Markus Persson (@notch) March 25, 2014
Does it have to be this way, though? Not necessarily. This isn’t the first time Facebook has acquired a company- besides the much-publicized purchase of WhatsApp, Facebook also dropped a billion dollars for Instagram which has, since the acquisition, not been ruined. While Instagram has introduced advertisements, they have been designed specifically to be as non-intrusive as possible. Facebook had a vested interest in not destroying it’s billion-dollar investment, and it thus far has not. Why would Facebook run the risk of wrecking a two billion dollar investment?
In a leaked conference call, Zuckerberg did have comments on making money from the acquisition.
If we can make it so that this becomes a network where people can be communicating, and buying things and virtual goods, there might be advertising in the world but we need to figure that out down the line, then that’s probably where the business will come from if I have to say.
Zuckerberg’s long-term goal isn’t to throw tacky Facebook ads into every independently hand-crafted virtual reality work of art- rather, it’s to create another social network that utilizes the Oculus Rift- that’s a lot different than what the knee-jerk reaction to this deal has been.
Palmer Luckey himself, the founder of Oculus VR, has confirmed that his company will continue to operate independently. In fact, the acquisition will make it easier for Oculus VR to make virtual reality accessible at an even lower price point than initially anticipated, making it available not just for gamers, but for researchers, educators, and indie developers. Facebook has recognized that Oculus VR will work best if left alone from a developmental standpoint, and has simply provided to them the resources to build their company.
To put it in perspective, the initial versions of the Oculus Rift were dependent on surplus parts purchased from the cell phone industry. With money like this, it’ll be possible to manufacture parts specifically made for the Rift much more quickly, pump more resources into R&D, and pump money into the community. Oculus VR has plans for a Virtual Reality convention– Riftcon- this will help make it possible.
As for those upset that Oculus VR had been community funded on Kickstarter, it’s worth noting that the company had some angel investors prior to the Kickstarter campaign- rich folks who willing put in millions of dollars.
@notaxation No share of the company was promised to backers. Sale price is based off the merit of the product. I don’t see an issue here.
— Drew Samuto (@drewsamuto) March 26, 2014
The fact that Facebook has paid $2 billion for Oculus VR doesn’t mean that the Oculus Rift is going to become a commercial vehicle for Facebook, or that Oculus VR is going to be separated from the community which it has been a part of for so very long. This is not a betrayal of those who put their faith and dollars in the Kickstarter campaign a couple of years ago, as this has not and shall not prevent Oculus VR from delivering on their promise of virtual reality that’s feasible and affordable.
Whatever happens with the Rift tomorrow, there are still great games coming out for it today.