March 26, 2014
In a surprise announcement yesterday, Facebook revealed its plans to acquire Oculus VR, maker of the virtual reality Oculus Rift headset. Reaction to the $2 billion agreement has ranged from excitement on Wall Street — to bewilderment by those questioning the accuracy of the news — to anger by some early supporters who pledged funds to the startup via its Kickstarter campaign. Others reportedly disappointed in the news include developers who purchased early prototypes of the Oculus Rift hoping to become the first to create games.
The disappointed developers “took to Twitter, Reddit and, ironically, Facebook to discuss their concerns over making products for a company that primarily makes money by targeting advertisements to those who use its services,” reports The New York Times.
“Oculus VR has largely focused its efforts on building hardware for interactive and immersive 3D games,” notes NYT. “But Facebook said on Tuesday that it ‘plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas.'”
There are also those in the media industry who fear that the personal entertainment experiences possible with virtual reality headsets pose a potential long-term threat to the theatrical movie business.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief exec of Facebook, believes that virtual reality could be the next big computing platform after mobile. “We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences,” he wrote on Facebook yesterday.
Facebook is the latest tech company to invest in wearable hardware. While Google has taken a different approach with its high-tech Glass eyewear, notes NYT in a related article, the Oculus “acquisition is one of several bets that Facebook, with about 1.2 billion users worldwide, is making in its effort to anticipate the future and secure its dominance of social communication.”
Despite the news that developers are already canceling plans to create entertainment experiences for the Oculus Rift, and speculation that Facebook eventually plans to rebrand the hardware with its own interface and logo, the 21-year-old co-founder of Oculus VR, Palmer Luckey is excited about the potential audience size and tech resources available through the deal.
“This is the best shot virtual reality has ever had and probably will ever have,” he said.
Oculus Rift Just Put Facebook in the Movie Business, Variety, 3/25/14
Facebook Pays $2 Billion for Virtual Reality Company, The Hollywood Reporter, 3/25/14
Facebook to Buy Virtual Reality Firm Oculus for $2 Billion, The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/14