Mid-Afternoon to early evening 3/26/2014 depending on where you were located (sure, this news impacted other, non-American countries, but foreign time zones represent math I don’t want to think about) it was announced that megacorporation Facebook, you know that Farmville spewing social networking site famous for stealing your data and the subject of popular Nine Inch Nails scored movie The Social Network, bought PC indie darling Oculus Rift. In a move that the vocal Internet minority could only scream as ‘deplorable’ or ‘the death of virtual reality,’ Facebook’s purchase could only mark said death of PC VR, right?
This is not the death of the Oculus Rift
Facebook has long been called an ‘evil’ company. Their policies on private information have been in question and talked about since the site’s inception. People hate Facebook, there’s no way around that. But what does that have to do with the Oculus Rift? For the most part, very little. Most of the absolute venom currently spewing across the Internet seems to be coming from people who are completely ignoring the actual press release of this deal. You know, like the part where Mark Zuckerberg specifically states: “Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook…” Just because Notch decided to cancel the port of Minecraft to the Oculus Rift as he finds Facebook ‘creepy’ doesn’t mean that the platform is completely dead and a sad mockery of everything it once stood for. This does raise some very interesting questions to be answered and discussions to have about Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general, but they don’t affect the current status of the Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift is going to be just fine. Before more uninformed voices screech at me, I have to ask you just one question…
Did you trust Oculus VR on 3/24/2014?
Yes, were you sold on the concept of the Oculus Rift and trust John Carmack and crew to deliver the next step in virtual reality the day before the company was bought? If not, please continue being outraged, your frustration is fine by me. Unfounded, but fine regardless. If you thought the Oculus Rift was hot shit on Monday and then shat bricks Tuesday afternoon I have to wonder why you think the entire world is out to get things that you like. Most people are looking at this deal as Facebook trying to take the video game based Oculus Rift and turn it into a 3D Farmville machine that sucks money out of the unassuming masses. Most people are also completely ignoring the simple fact that Oculus Rift was started as a passion project by a group of developers who wanted to push technology forward, so they clearly just saw dollar signs and sold out as soon as possible. If you trusted Oculus before, you really should trust them to sign a deal that wouldn’t destroy their vision and the past several years of work. Even if you don’t trust Oculus:
Oculus is a business and more capital is good
Video games are awesome. Movies are awesome. Painting are awesome. Art and fun experiences in general come in many different forms, but at the end of the day, unless you are a starving artist, these things are businesses. The Oculus Rift is supposed to move virtual reality technology forward, but the end goal has always been to sell a product that consumers can use and integrate into their day-to-day lives. Facebook has made more money than most of us can even fathom. While it has made its owners rich, the owners of a company and its shareholders don’t simply suck up all that excess profit for themselves, they invest it in things that they think can make more money or expand their interests. Most people or companies with too much money invest in a venture capital fund who when invests in hopefully profitable companies. Facebook could just be skipping the middle man and taking full responsibility of its investments. Even if they weren’t, having the monetary backing of Facebook means a mass produced Oculus Rift sooner than the old business model. Mass production means the device can be made with higher quality components at an overall similar price per unit due to bulk product discounts. We may get a higher quality Oculus or we could get a similar unit to what we have, but cheaper. More importantly, we get serious mainstream attention and…
Mainstreaming is good
Do you know why Facebook is such a runaway success and MySpace is dying a slow, agonizing death? Facebook took something that we, the tech-savvy consumer had been using in social networks and made it into a far more functional system that was not only preferable to what came before, but caught on with the general population. Sure, the garish MySpace pages that blared whatever your terrible taste in music was at the time upon viewing was ideal for the tweens of the time, but Facebook’s standardized system with games, pages and chat rooms that users could interact as a group were far preferable. Facebook is a company that not only has stayed relevant far longer than any other social network on the market, but has shown it knows how to acquire companies to help make itself better, like taking Instagram and simply fully integrating it into itself. Even if you’re afraid that Facebook would make sweeping changes to Oculus, which they stated they have no intention of, simply becoming part of Facebook bring the mainstream attention that a product such as this desperately needs to become a successful retail product that developers actually take advantage of. More importantly, as incredible as the waves Oculus is making in gaming are…
Facebook immediately opens up more opportunities
The Oculus Rift has been marketed as the next evolution for video games and having used one, I can say that I do believe it is. Virtual reality is very close to becoming a thing that not only doesn’t suck, but is incredibly immersive. What this acquisition by Facebook provides is not only the capital to make the retail version of the Oculus Rift a thing that we can buy on a store shelf faster, but the internal and external motivation to make it a product that extends so much further than games. We are one step closer to Snowcrash’s Metaverse becoming a thing and that is something to be happy about. Virtual reality has so many applications beyond games that most of us haven’t even considered. Just because ‘courtside seats at an NBA game’ are talked about in the press release doesn’t mean that is the sole focus of the Oculus now. Even so, if virtual reality is going to be used for those, frankly, fascinating idea presented, why would you assume that video games will be removed from the equation? Regardless of whether you’re happy, angry or really don’t care, Facebook buying Oculus Rift is certainly causing some waves and will have long reaching repercussions for both companies. All we can do is wait and hope for the best and hopefully I’ve reassured some of your doubts.