Just a month after Mark Zuckerberg’s massive $19 billion dollar investment in the popular messaging platform WhatsApp, the Facebook buying machine has struck again, this time with Kickstarter-funded virtual reality company Oculus VR. The acquisition, reported to be worth $2billion, sent shock-waves through the Twitterscape & numerous online forums; but, likely not with the positive response that Zuck and the fellas at Oculus may have hoped for.
Facebook, not known for “excellence in gaming”, is not exactly the place most gamers hoped Oculus would end up. A platform known for such “gaming highlights” as ‘Farmville’ and ‘Candy Crush’ doesn’t seemingly fit the high-tech, futuristic gaming platform that Oculus had been associated with. Already, gamers are speaking out in disgust, sounding the Oculus Rift’s death knell just hours after the announcement was made.
Just look at some of the comments from this post on Engadget:
I doubt gamers’ feelings will get any softer towards this acquisition when they hear this:
According to a person involved in the deal who was not allowed to speak publicly because he was not authorized by either company, Facebook eventually plans to redesign the Oculus hardware and rebrand it with a Facebook interface and logo. (courtesy NYTimes)
And the overwhelming backlash thus far isn’t just shared by gamers. Developer Markus “Notch” Persson, creator of the popular “Minecraft” game, was previously considering working on a version for Oculus’ Rift. Just after the announcement of Facebook’s acquisition, he had this to say:
We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.
— Markus Persson (@notch) March 25, 2014
The announcement that Facebook purchased Oculus comes just after Sony announced they were working on a virtual reality headset for their PS4, which could shift additional fans away from the Rift device.
In my opinion, though, all of this initial outcry is just that– initial. While I’m not sure this was the best for either side, Facebook does have significant capital, enough to bring the Oculus Rift to market much faster, and likely more affordable, than if they continued on their own. And, I think the fact that Facebook isn’t strong in the gaming market could be good for Oculus as well. It may allow them to do things their way, without much creative interference that could come from a company with solid experience in this area.
And, I’m not the only one who appears to feel this way. Oculus co-founder Palmer Lucky told Engadget, in the same article referenced above:
For Luckey, who began work on the first Rift prototype while he was still in college, the fact that Facebook isn’t a gaming company is actually a good thing. “Almost anyone in a gaming place would want us to do it based on their vision,” he says. “We already had a vision for the company,” Luckey told us in a brief post-announcement interview. “Facebook is going to let us do it, but with their resources behind it.” (courtesy Engadget)
I’m interested to see what happens in the next few months. If Facebook can truly leave Oculus to design for itself, and make a killer gaming product, the hardcore audience will return. Until then, both companies will face a little scrutiny online– not that either likely cares.