In case you’ve been living under a rock, Facebook acquired Oculus VR late last month for the tidy sum of two billion dollars. Those who originally backed the Oculus Rift headest on Kickstarter – and several developers who’d originally signed on to work with the system – were understandably distressed at the news. All of those developers and backers who originally expected they’d have a say in the project’s future were to be left in the dust, and for what? So Facebook could start off on another pet project that might never take off?
And what, exactly, would become of the Oculus Rift? Would it simply be relegated to the undesirable position of gimimicky AR peripheral; a Facebook interface tool no one in their right mind would use? At the time of purchase, it seemed as though all was lost – one of the most promising technologies in the past, present, and future of video games had been snatched from us by a cruel, blue tentacle. Notch himself – creator of Minecraft – was vocal enough about his displeasure, and I suspect many developers share his stance.
“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,” he continued. “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.“
Therein lies the issue so many have with Facebook’s purchase. Now, the Oculus Rift is no longer a gamer peripheral, it’s a social media tool. Right? That’s what’s going to happen, isn’t it?
I highly doubt it.
Look, I’m going to say this to you straight. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t end up the youngest billionaire in the world by being an idiot. If anyone sees the writing on the wall where the Oculus Rift’s concerned, it’s him. He and his board know full well what fans of the hardware were expecting of it, and I’ve little doubt they’re going to be putting Facebook’s considerable capital behind making the Rift into the most incredible virtual reality headset the games industry has ever seen.
It is, after all, fairly clear that Palmer Luckey and his crew aren’t planning to do anything differently now that they’re under Facebook’s umbrella. John Carmack has already explained that this won’t change his support of the Rift, while Luckey gave an interview just a few days before the acquisition explaining the Rift’s current roadmap. At Oculus VR, it honestly seems to be business as usual.
And business involves games.
Yes, I know it stings that the Kickstarter backers aren’t going to have a say in the development of the Rift anymore, but to assume that just because Facebook owns the company they’re going to crap all over it and turn it into a broken shell seems a touch unreasonable. This isn’t Electronic Arts we’re dealing with here, folks.
In short, the Rift isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Facebook would be foolish not to capitalize on the considerable power it has to revolutionize the games industry. The behemoth social network is many things, my friends, but ‘foolish’ isn’t one of them.