It is news like this that sits perfectly in my cross hairs of cynicism. Whilst Facebook’s purchase of Snap chat seemed like a strange move, their purchase of Oculus and the Rift project caused many in the industry to turn around a say ‘hang on a minute. From a games industry angle the purchase of the Rift seems like a horrible event. A company that is responsible for some of the worst games in the industry, purchasing a project that is touted as changing how we play games, looks like a recipe for disaster, and while I do agree that Facebook’s portfolio in the industry is worth nothing more than the dumpster outside of my apartment, I am not so blinded by cynicism to see the advantages that such a business partnership can offer. So from there let us actually look at the situation we now stand in.
The first and most obvious benefit for Oculus and its developers is the money an entity like Facebook will be bringing to the company. Right away we saw a cash buyout of $2 Billion which for a project that original earned it’s budget from crowd funding and the pockets of those involved shows just how much promise the project has in the eyes of those looking to invest. However some that invested in the company in the early days of the Oculus Rift’s Kickstarter may feel some form of entitlement and ownership to the original project and as such may not like that a massive business has just taken over something they have invested in, this a separate debate that I may go into at a later date as it does present some complex arguments along with some legal jargon.
In regard to the higher status investors of the project, Markus ‘Notch’ Perrson, the creator of the hugely popular game Minecraft, was one of the notable people to have spoken out against the buyout stating that:
“Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers… Their motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven’t historically been a stable platform. There’s nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to me.”
So what is Facebook’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s master plan for Oculus? From a post Zuckerberg made on Facebook, they aim to widen the overall aim of the project bringing Virtual reality to all digital media.
“Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences. Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform.”
According to the man himself, they aim to accelerate the project to completion in regards to the gaming target, thus allowing them to focus on widening the applications of the Rift, which in theory means VR VOIP calls, VR movies and all of that Sci Fi movie and TV stuff you watched as a kid being a possibility. This is great you may now be thinking, and in theory again, yes it is. The whole future is now sh-peal seems plausible and the fact that Zuckerberg has stated that they aim to finish the Rifts development for the gaming industry is reassuring, but, and it’s a big but, the direction Facebook is currently going in regards to the saturation of adverts is cause for concern. Take a look at your Facebook page today and it is awash with adverts and other pointless content that disrupts from the core concept of a social media page making some believe that this saturating form of advertising may seep into the VR developments of software in the Oculus Rift, disrupting the whole immersion factor that VR is supposed to bring.
Like many announcements and regime changes we will have to wait an see what happens with this. What a press release says and what the company actually does are usually two separate things and will no doubt offend someone in the world. I have full faith in what John Carmack and the team at Oculus can do with the Rift, they have been doing a great job up to this point and even with the withdrawal of support from some, many in the gaming and technology industries are still in support of them and eagerly await the finished product. For thoes now opposed to the Rift, keep in mind that they are not the only company involved in the development of virtual reality tech, Sony’s recent announcement of project Morpheus is sure to start attracting more attention and present more direct competition in the gaming scene. And of course we shouldn’t count out Gabe Newell and the people at Valve. Many considered it strange that it wasn’t Valve that outright bought Oculus having shown a strong interest in the project, so whether they have something in the pipeline or are just intent to focus on developing the Steam OS again only time will tell.