News broke today that Facebook intends to buy Oculus VR in a deal that totals over $2 billion in cash and stock. The Internet recoiled in horror.
Now, the collective communities on the internet are not known for their level headed restraint, and there are plenty of reasons why this would make sense for Oculus to make the deal, primarily revolving around resources. Money is maybe the most obvious resource that the Oculus team gets out of this, not just in payouts for their team, but money that means that a serious product can be made beyond the development kits. It takes serious cash and commitments to get the attention of the big manufacturers needed to make this a mass market product. Possibly even more important than cash, It gets them access to Facebook’s significant talent pool, and their impressive recruiting ability. Right now Oculus would be really boosted by more grade-A engineering talent, helping them iterate over all the tough bits to make the experience of using the Rift compelling and natural feeling.
That being said, I’m kinda with the Internet, I’m not thrilled.
Getting beyond the shocked reaction GIFs, I think my thoughts are ones that resonate with a lot of people:
- Facebook is first and foremost an ad platform, and your data and access to you are their primary product. This, in and of itself, is not reason to label Facebook as a nefarious entity, but the more data and uses get entangled with Facebook the harder it becomes to disengage yourself if they become a company you would rather not do business with.
- Facebook is not a games company, they are a social platform, and while one could argue that they are a big platform for games as well, I would argue that their presence in gaming has been at best mixed, ushering in the age of “free to play” games with microtransactions. Many 3rd party games on the platform are more centered around quick cash grabs then the immersive experiences that VR promises, making for a potentially odd fit between the two companies
- Many potentially great things go away once they get absorbed by big companies. We have seen it time and again, a great startup gets bought, and the product goes away, slowly dies on the vine, or takes a less interesting tact. While Mark Zuckerberg expressed enthusiasm and the company said that development of the Oculus Rift will continue in a press release, what this means for its potential in the gaming market is cloudy.
I’ll try to remain positive, and where I was skeptical before if Oculus VR could really change the gaming world, I am still skeptical but now for an entirely different set of reasons. Facebook could prove to be a good thing for the space, and even if, like Minecraft’s Notch, it becomes easier to cut ties and move on, there is the starts of competition in the space, and hopefully enough noise is now being made that we will see some positive steps in this new frontier.