Oculus VR is best known for the consumer-priced virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift, which has spectacular implications for gaming and the future of displays. Facebook is best known for being a social media juggernaut that basically defined the concept of the social media experience and also what it is to be on the forefront of privacy controversy. These two industries didn’t seem to have much in common until Facebook made an offer to acquire Oculus VR for $2 billion dollars.
The question that immediately spring to mind is: what does this mean for the future of gaming?
Not very much…right now.
As long as Facebook keeps its grubby mitts off the production and diversification of the VR technology as it relates to consumer use and gaming, Zuckerberg’s social empire will change very little as it comes to Oculus and future virtual reality MMOs. Even if Zuckerberg feels that virtual reality is a social platform.
“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” said Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, in the press release. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”
Unsurprisingly, MMOs are also extremely social platforms—they are very much virtual spaces where people work, play, and communicate.
Facebook is not a well-loved platform, and due to many controversies involving Facebooks issues with basic user security and privacy, has seen its fair share of detractors across numerous industries. Amid them ever-popular Notch, who has publicly stated that he’s going to withdraw Minecraft support for the Oculus Rift because, “Facebook creeps [him] out.”
“We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus,” Persson said on Twitter shortly after the news broke. “I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.”
In a blog post, Marcus “Notch” Presson explained how he was excited about bringing Minecraft to VR—and especially through the Oculus Rift—but that Facebook’s involvement in the project has given him extreme, justified pause.
And then, not two weeks later, Facebook buys them.
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.
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.
Notch sees a problem with Facebook in that as a company—eschewing the privacy controversies and lack of customer-centric thoughtfulness—does not tend to treat indie developers and startups very well. Minecraft is potentially one of the de facto exemplars of an indie gaming studio becoming a genre-defining phenomenon.
Facebook acting as a gateway to VR could be a chilling actor (assuming Facebook’s grubby hands don’t stay off and Oculus VR becomes a walled garden instead of a jazzy jungle.)
On the other side of the spectrum, CCP Games, developer and publisher of EVE Online, came out in favor of the boatload of money being shoved atop Oculus VR.
“We’re very excited for our friends and colleagues at Oculus,” David Reid, CCP Games’ CMO told Engadget. “We share their vision about the future of VR and gaming and are looking forward to participating in the consumer launch of the Oculus Rift with EVE: Valkyrie.”
So far, the consensus about Facebook’s acquisition is that it is ultimately good for Oculus VR and virtual reality in particular. Even as prominent developers such as Notch are bothered by Facebook, it’s easy to see that on the horizon we have new competitors to the Oculus Rift finally coming to fruition. Sony’s Project Morpheus comes to mind.
With Oculus VR receiving $2 billion we in the gaming community will see a real stake being placed on the platform of virtual reality. As a potential competitor, Sony is no slouch—as a company Sony is a consumer electronics company with a powerful software and gaming angle.
This acquisition could even give a lot of the industry a reason to see virtual reality as a viable consumer interest and that’s also good for gamers. While the technology to enable virtual reality may in the short term be these clunky, helmet-like or visor-like head pieces, as miniaturization gets better we might start to see something that could be sitting next to our monitors or sitting on the couch in the living room.
New technology or future fad, virtual reality displays are coming into interesting times.