Why Facebook Buying Oculus VR is Not a Bad Thing

Earlier today Facebook announced that they would be purchasing Oculus VR for around $2 billion. Of course the initial reaction ranged from joyful optimism to cynical eye-rolling.

I’m going to try my very best to explain why this enormous purchase for Facebook is a better investment at $2 billion than let’s say, their recent purchase of WhatsApp.

For starters, it adds legitimacy to a tech that would’ve easily been written off as “gimmicky.” We’ve been down this road before with the swift rise and fall of 3D. Before that, motion controls that were supposed to change the world but really just made us look silly in front of our families at Thanksgiving. Oh yeah, remember when vitality sensors were a thing? Me neither. As gamers we’ve grown accustomed to immediately scoffing at anything claiming to be the next big disruptive technology.

The point is that this news will make more people curious — who previously wouldn’t be  —  about the tech. This is HUGE news not only for the gaming community but the tech community as a whole. You’re going to be seeing a lot of news stories in mainstream media being run along with some pretty crazy ideas being thrown around.

Mark Zuckerberg also commented that Oculus VR will operate independently with in Facebook:

Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. We’re going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this.

I’m pretty sure this is to assure us that some kid in a hoody and sandals won’t be pulling John Carmack away from Rift development to try to get Candy Crush to look nicer. Honestly, this gives the Oculus team the financial security and resources that they need to release this thing, and do so likely at a grander scale than they originally planned.

The acquisition allows the door to be opened for other possibilities outside of the realm of gaming. Imagine flight schools or the Air Force using the Oculus Rift headset as a cheaper alternative to a million dollar flight simulator. Hell, why not do what Apple does with their iPads and lease a bunch of these to colleges where they can be used to take students on virtual tours of ancient Rome or another solar system?

Zuckerberg used the example as just a small example of the opportunity this presents for the Rift:

This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to relive my 22nd birthday where I tried to fight a chair I claimed was talking smack about me at some bar in Hoboken. However, the idea of being able to insert myself into someone’s video of their white-water rafting trip seems pretty exciting. There’s true potential here that actually makes me excited for virtual reality for the first time in a long time.

This is just my initial gut reaction to the news but I’d love to hear what you guys think. Who benefits more, Facebook or Oculus? Does this truly do anything for virtual reality gaming? What does this mean for Sony’s Morpheus headset that was announced at GDC?

Join the Discussion

  • Dennis Djoenz

    I am not even going to read the whole article. You do know Mark Suckerberg only cares about freaking data/information which is big money? ADS and what not. His agenda is fishy. His vision is scary cause he wants everything connected through his own social confinement.

    • Jorge Jimenez

      Or it could be a tech guy generally excited about new tech? I think he sees the potential of the Rift and wants a piece of the action. The ability to predict trends is one billionaires become billionaires.

      • Dennis Djoenz

        That is basically my point business wise good move sure, but I was referring to the gaming industry. This is not that good news for gamers overall. Ads/Datamining. He must get this money back. Googleglass will do wonders eventually and make the Oculus Rift redundant for non gaming purposes. This overtake is mehhhh….

        • ChatWraithDelta

          Right? 2 BILLION dollars. At one point, oculus rift developers said that they’d make their VR headset free if they could. That’s how badly they wanted it to be available to players as a peripheral.

          How the f*** is a headset going to make 2 billion dollars back? Are we going to have 3D ads stuck 2 inches from our eyes now? Are we going to be forcefed ad-paid bullshit no matter how hard we try?

          F*** you oculus rift. I hope sony’s headset outperforms, and leaves you in the dirt.

  • Dennis Djoenz

    Google should come with their own VR. I have no confidence in FB or anything associated with FB for those applications you mentioned. Google glass is a simple example.

  • Bankai

    I’m excited to see what Oculus does now, it may actually lead to Sony upping their game as a response.

    • Jorge Jimenez

      As long as they let John Carmack do his thing. He’s the closest thing we have to a mad scientist these days.

    • PCS4-Box U

      I remain skeptical. My worst fear is that The Rift loses its “open source” mentality in exchange for a “closed garden” ruled and regulated by FB. I will say that i think its good for Sony to have another mass market VR headset to go up against, more competition means more content… but i can’t shake the feeling we’ll end up with a crappy social VR interactive Doomville.

      • Jorge Jimenez

        I doubt that since the open source mentality is the biggest draw for developers.

        • PCS4-Box U

          i hope your right, i really do. I still think its a bad image for Oculus… most serious gamers want nothing to do with FB and will see this as a major foul. To me, that means they are going to really need to come out with both fist swinging. There’s also a very real concern that the focus will no longer be for PC gamers and we end up with nothing but crapware facebook stuff. No respectable developer today wants to create facebook games, maybe that changes now that they own Rift but we’ll just have to wait and see with this one.
          If their smart, they’ll leave Oculus to handle it and stay the hell out of the way… only using their influence for gaining support and funding. Thats what they say they plan to do but what a company says and actually does when its time to launch may be 2 completely different things (see xbox one).

        • oGMo

          For developers, certainly; for a return on $2 billion investment … well, maybe not. For $2 billion, you can hire a lot of developers…

  • Jecht_Sin

    What you wrote may benefit Sony as well. FB will help making the VR more popular and some people can go for the cheaper option, Still Sony has to open the PS4 up to all kind of applications if they want Project Morpheus to become really successful.

    • Matt Dickinson

      I hope a lot of the games developed for the Rift find their way over to Sony’s console (as well as Microsoft’s, if they’re working on VR, or if the Rift can work with that). They’ll need all the games they can get given how few regular AAA games are coming out.

    • brianc6234

      What do you mean Sony has to open up the PS4 to all kinds of applications? If someone wants to develop something for the PS4 I doubt Sony will tell them no.

      • Jecht_Sin

        I dunno. What I see is that the application library (games excluded) in any PlayStation is currently quite limited.

  • Kupo

    Who thought VR was gimmicky? VR has been the gaming dream since the beginning. There’s been quite a few cartoons, movies, anime, books, comics, manga, and TV shows that have done VR gaming, so VR was never going to be dismissed as a gimmick.

    This deal is very bad since it just makes OR mainstream, and I can’t think of anything good that has ever come from bringing gaming to the mainstream. I can think of quite a few bad things gaming going mainstream has brought though.

  • superkarma

    Facebook needs to stop trying to be the next Google. It’s not going to happen. It’s pretty amusing how a social networking company is buying into VR tech, though. I doubt this will end well for the Oculus.

  • Axe99

    “Honestly, this gives the Oculus team the financial security and resources that they need to release this thing, and do so likely at a grander scale than they originally planned.”

    Yup, but that financial security will come at a price. You don’t spend $2 Bn because you don’t want something. Facebook wants something from Oculus, and Oculus’ vision _will_ be altered to achieve this. Further, Facebook will want to leverage it to get people into their system (they’d be crazy not to). Now, how much that will happen remains to be seen, but no one, anywhere, gets bought by someone and things change.

    Add to this that Facebook knows next-to-nothing about gaming, particularly hardware, and you’re throwing together two very different types of activity. The potential for miscommunication, mismanagement and a messed up vision is huge.

    Not saying it’ll happen, but it would have been much better for Oculus to be backed by venture capitalists or something doing it’s own thing, rather than to be sucked in to following Facebook’s vision in the long run.

  • stealth20k

    For gamers it is aweful. Nothing said really has any substance. And devs are already backing out/

  • bleedsoe9mm

    more players with massive amounts of money investing in the industry that doesn’t exist yet by the way , gives VR a better chance at succeeding

  • brianc6234

    I think within a couple years Facebook will be broke. They keep buying companies for billions that make no sense for their business. At least everyone can stop developing for this thing now and switch to Sony’s VR system.

  • Stranger On The Road

    All the possibilities and potentials you wrote about already existed without interference from Facebrick. Using VR for simulators is already thought about; hack someone is already working on motion controller that looks like a riffle to be used with Oculus Rift. Facebrick adds nothing to the equation except money, and we could argue that without that money, VR would have been more open and we wouldn’t need to worry about it being closed.

    Facebrick creep out many people -me included- and with this acquisition I lost all interest of getting the consumer version of the Rift.

    Do you honest expect the military to use a product built by Facebrick for their training? I wouldn’t be surprised that they lost all interest in the Rift because of this news. I still wonder how Valve and EA are going to react to this; dealing with Facebrick is something that creeps out many many people.

  • islan

    I don’t get the people who complain about the OR no longer being a “game-centered” device. Let non-gamers enjoys the tech too, people!

    But I *am* with those that suspect Facebook’s intentions. The company hasn’t exactly been garnering any trust over the years.

  • Jodie

    “We’re clearly not a hardware company –we’re not going to try and make a
    profit off the devices long-term,” he said. “We do this as a software
    and services thing where, if we can make it, that this becomes a network
    where people are communicating and buying things and virtual goods.
    There might be advertising in the world but we need to work that out
    down the line.”

    Mark Zuckerberg.