Obligatory Shock About Oculus Rift Post

So yeah, yesterday after the markets closed, Facebook announced they were going to buy Oculus VR for $2 billion. Oculus VR is the company currently working on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

And then a corner of the internet exploded.  I figured I ought to mark that moment in time so we can come back and revisit it later.

Sudden, and potentially rash statements were made.

A general revulsion with all things Facebook was expressed by some.

Basically, all the dislike of Facebook… and there is much to dislike about Facebook and it methods and its founder’s outlook… bubbled forth.  Answer this question: If Mark Zuckerberg asked you to strap this to your face…

Into the Rift

Into the Rift

…which movie would come to mind?  Aliens?  Clockwork Orange?  Lawnmower Man?

Would you envision fun things happening or bad things?  Or just boring things?

So we are currently in the shock phase of this announcement, which is making the whole “Disney buys Star Wars“thing look pretty tame, at least in our little corner of the internet.  After all, for a lot of people the Star Wars series was already ruined by episodes I-III, so what else could Disney do?  But a lot of people were pining some pretty big hopes on Oculus Rift being a step into the future of gaming.

And now Facebook has it.  Are we going to get Candy Crush Saga VR?  FarmVille 3D?  Are we going to get any sort of VR gaming experience at all out of this?  Zuckerberg isn’t exactly big on video games.  His past actions have been about extracting money from those games that choose to live in his domain.

Ars Technica already has a column up about what Facebook might do, which includes a lot of promises about what won’t happen… from the guy who no longer controls the company… so the brightest bit in that seems be the fact that Facebook bought Instagram and hasn’t destroyed it yet.  Maybe Zuckerberg will just leave them alone.

Then there is the Kickstarter aspect of the whole thing.  Oculus VR raised $2.4 million of its funding via a Kickstarter campaign… just before Disney bought Star Wars, to bring that back around.  People who gave money at that point forked it over for very specific reasons.  This was the way it was pitched:

…the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.

For video games.  That is what they said.  Will they keep saying that a few months after the acquisition?  And will it matter if more developers step away because of Facebook?

While Oculus VR likely has no legal/financial obligation to do anything but send out the promised T-Shirts and early units that people were entitled to for their pledges, do they have any sort of moral obligation after taking Facebook’s money when it seems likely that the vision sold will not end up being the vision pursued?

And, finally, there is the “Why sell to Facebook?” question.  Why would Oculus VR sell to a company that has so little interest in video games and so much invested in collecting and selling our data?  Were things just up for the highest bidder?  Were there too many strings attached to other offers? Did current investors force the move to cash out?

Because there had to be other offers.

Anyway, among other things, this puts the whole “CCP moving closer to Sony” thing in a new light.  Was the word already out that Oculus Rift might be moving away from video games?  Was CCP hedging its bets?  Is Sony’s Project Morpheus the new leader in that arena?

The Sony project was interesting when Oculus Rift was there as well, but alone it seems destined to become yet another proprietary piece of Sony hardware.  Sony VR will require you to purchase a PlayStation 4.  And that may keep Oculus Rift in play even with Facebook looming large over it.

As the dust settles after the big shock, people are starting to muse about what this really means.  I suspect we will be doing that for a while.

Of course, every such announcement has its bright side.

And then there is the humor aspect.

We shall see how this all develops.  If nothing else, I have a tickler now to check back on this in a year.

11 thoughts on “Obligatory Shock About Oculus Rift Post

  1. Liore

    I think aside from the fact that Facebook was totally unexpected, the big deal for me is that suddenly the Oculus went from a neat gaming concept to a “communication platform” according to Zuckerberg’s press release.

    Although I’m not a Facebook fan I don’t think they’re going to instantly run Oculus VR into the ground or anything, but I also don’t think that we’ere going to get a sweet gaming platform out of it any more and that sucks.

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  2. bhagpuss

    I was reading about this on BBC Tech News at work today (one of the few places that cover gaming new that isn’t blocked) and it seemed pretty clear Zuckerberg wants the technology for non-gaming purposes. My immediate thought was that it could be very good news for Sony. They may end up being the primary purveyors of VR specifically for gaming.

    Has anyone actually tried one of these things, by the way? I see pictures of people wearing them and find it very hard to imagine enjoying long gaming sessions with one of those things strapped to my head. I have problems wearing over-the-ear headphones for more than an hour or two…

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Well, my gut says that Sony will do what it always does with this sort of thing, and try to keep it exclusive to their hardware in order to drive PS4 sales. But other potential players out there might be able to step in, including Valve.

    I do not know anybody who has actually tried on the headset. Reports from EVE Vegas, where they were showing the EVE Valkyrie demo with the headset was that it was very, very good, but I don’t think anybody got to wear the thing for more than a few minutes.

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  4. Stropp

    “And, finally, there is the “Why sell to Facebook?” question. Why would Oculus VR sell to a company that has so little interest in video games and so much invested in collecting and selling our data?”

    I can think of 2 billion reasons!

    Seriously. Consider that Youtube was sold to Google for 1.3 billion. PayPal was sold to eBay for 1.5B. It’s a huge amount of money, and any business founder would be crazy to ignore an offer of that magnitude. Deals of that size are once in a lifetime, unless you’re Elon Musk…

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  5. Stropp

    Hmmm. I think a sum of that magnitude has a tendency to eclipse other reasons. I hope I’m not being too cynical here, but the cliche that everything has its price does come into this.

    A lot as you say would depend on the other investors and how the business was structured. VC’s and Angels tend to be very strong on getting quick returns, and for a return like that, considering they made 2.4 million on Kickstarter, is likely to have been strongly encouraged by the investors.

    Also consider that people get into business for two main reasons, they want to make a difference, and they want to make money (there are others like buying a job, but they don’t tend to cover startups.) It’s not unlikely that money was the motivation for starting Oculus in the ffirst place.

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  6. Spectrum

    Stropp, I agree with you it may have been about the money not the dream. They have had several rounds of funding (91m was the last one). According to what I read it is just an investment by Facebook, they don’t have any specific plans.
    I think it will take a long time for the investment to have a return and Oculus is not the only game in town or specific patents. I don’t have Facebook stock, so I don’t care.

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  7. Hectar

    I was lucky enough to try the headset at the recent London Eve player meetup. I was blown away by the experience. It’s easy to dismiss the hype surrounding this bit of kit, but it really is that good.
    I had it pegged as a fantastic but niche gaming peripheral. A must have item for the gaming hardcore, but alien to the casual pc user.
    I cannot see how it will be sold to the FB crowd in it’s current incarnation.
    My mother uses Facebook. Her idea of cutting edge technology is a mouse with a scroll wheel.

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