March 25th 2014 news broke that Facebook have plans to buy Oculus, the company behind the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. Oculus Rift has been in development for quite some time now, the company set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund their first dev kits back in 2012. The KS campaign recieved massive support, and 9,522 backers donated more than $2,4 million.
That was two years ago, they have since sold tens of thousands of the dev kits, a v2 version of the dev kit is slated for release in July this year while a consumer version of the headset is still in development. They showcased a prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2014.
Oculus Rift has had a very strong following on the web, people are excited about the project and the future of VR. The emergence of Oculus Rift has made companies like Sony take up the competition to develop VR tools of their own. It is a very exciting thing for the gaming community as a whole.
The news about the acquisition by Facebook came as a shock to many (most? all?) of the supporters, and reactions on the web have been overwhelmingly negative so far. I think the only piece of positive feedback on this that I've seen so far, were from people who were excited about the possibilities for their future ad placements. Let that sink in for a minute.
There are opinion pieces about this posted by the minute, but by far the most heartbreaking one (in as far as pieces of techie news can be emotional) comes by way of Notch - the Minecraft creator. He donated $10k to the Oculus Rift KS back in 2012, following the news of the FB acquisition, he has cancelled all deals with them - they were talking about creating a version of Minecraft especially for Oculus Rift. That is definitely not happening now.
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. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build. http://notch.net/2014/03/virtual-reality-is-going-to-change-the-world/
Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend’s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you’re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?
But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.
Fortunately, the rise of Oculus coincided with competitors emerging. None of them are perfect, but competition is a very good thing. If this means there will be more competition, and VR keeps getting better, I am going to be a very happy boy. I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook. 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.
And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.
While I didn't back the KS personally, I have friends who did, and I have been following the Oculus Rift development with keen interest. I must admit I find VR somewhat scary, but that's coming from someone who gets motion sickness from playing regular first person games, so it's probably more to do with me than the actual technology
I have far less issues with VR being used for gaming than VR being used for social interaction, though. I could never in my wildest dreams imagine putting on VR goggles to go to a virtual business meeting. Lync meetings and conference calls are annoying enough as it is. Also wondering what sort of company would be able to afford VR headsets for their employees for business meeting purposes, but that's completely beside the point.
According to the Oculus Rift founders, they went through with this deal because they feel that Oculus and FB share a common goal and vision. This instantly brings up a ton of red flags for me. While I do understand that FB wants to branch out into other scenes to build their user numbers and base of support, I can't picture them as an integral part of the gaming industry. I feel like FB's focus will be more on the social aspects of VR so that they can develop a technology and way of interaction that will be in direct competition with Google Glass.
Thoughts, opinions? Is this the end of the glorious VR adventures of the 2010s? Did any of you back the KS campaign back in 2012?