We were incredibly excited for the Oculus Rift here at IM PLAYIN, having played a couple of simple games the machine a few months back, and quite a few people were just as enthusiastic as we were. But the recent acquisition of the Rift tech by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook has left a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of many an Oculus fan. This is the second high-profile takeover by Facebook in the past few weeks, having only recently purchased the popular messaging service WhatsApp. Makes you wonder where Mr Zuckerberg is getting all of this money from. The Winklevoss twins would probably suggest that he’s done taking other people’s ideas and is just buying them now instead, but I digress. I had no problem with the purchase of WhatsApp, it makes perfect sense for a social media company to take over another social media company (provided it remains cheap and not packed full of adverts, like Facebook). The Oculus Rift, however, is a bit of a different story. I feel slightly uncomfortable with the idea of Facebook owning the Oculus Rift, and it’s difficult to predict which way they will go with it, but it might not be a bad thing.
There’s a strong possibility that it will become some sort of ‘social media’ monstrosity, where you can see your Facebook timeline in Virtual Reality (God know why that would be appealing). Perhaps they will bring back the old ‘poke’ system, but allow you to run up to your friends avatar in a VR Facebook Matrix world and punch them in the face … who knows. All I know is that, if they were to take that path, it would be a horrendous waste of the Oculus Rift’s potential. If there’s one thing that I do know about Facebook, however, it’s that the guys behind it aren’t stupid and they know how to make a buck or two. They will know that using the Rift as a Facebook add-on wouldn’t make them any money, it probably wouldn’t even make back the $2 billion they spent buying it in the first place. Nope, Facebook will have bigger plans for the Oculus Rift than that.
Will it still be a piece of gaming tech? Will they use it to incorporate social media in to the world of gaming even further? Will it remain pretty much the same product that thousands of people invested in, way back when it was a Kickstarter campaign? I would imagine that the short answer is probably not, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t remain in the realm of gaming, or at least be similar to what was promised in 2012. I mean, when Richard Branson set up Virgin Records and then added Virgin Atlantic to his business repertoire, he didn’t shove a record shop at the back of each Boeing 747 that left Heathrow Airport. Sure, that’s not the best example, but you get what I’m trying to say. So who’s to say that Mark Zuckerberg will add a Facebook like edge to the Oculus Rift?
Still, the community has been split down the middle over this one with some supporting the move and others condemning it. One of the highest profile naysayers is Notch, the genius behind Minecraft. He’s pulled Minecraft from the Rift, Tweeting that “Facebook creeps me out”. I hear you Notch, I hear you. I too am often weirded out by Facebook, with all of its bitchy statuses and creepy profile pictures. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, it’s early days. So I can’t vouch for the takeover just yet, but there are a few things that I do know. Firstly, Facebook has a tonne of money to throw at the tech. It’s probably the best thing about the take over, Palmer Luckey can now create the VR machine that he dreamed of, without monetary constraints. That’s not to say that Facebook won’t impede the design and functionality of the Oculus Rift somewhat, but when it comes to money problems, Palmer won’t be having any. Secondly, Facebook has a history of taking over immerging businesses, they’ve done it with Instagram and they’ve done it with WhatsApp and, so far, they’ve done a good job of it. Why should the Rift be any different? Of course, as I said earlier, the two examples above are social media apps which is very much in Facebook’s playing field. But, when it comes to letting businesses pretty much get on with things, Facebook has a relatively good track record. Last, but not least, the Oculus Rift now has a big name behind it. Sure the Kickstarter campaign earned them a cool 2,437,429 dollars, but that’s hardly even a drop in the money pool that Facebook has at its disposal. But it’s not just money that Facebook can provide, they have contacts and connections across the globe and, with well over one billion users, they’re pretty much a household name. With the backing of Facebook, the possibilities for the Rift are endless – surely that’s a good thing?
But, there are always principles to be abided by. I feel for the Kickstarter backers that invested in the VR dream a couple of years ago. No matter what happens, the Oculus Rift that they backed in 2012 no longer exists. It will be a different beast, and that’s a shame for them. Well, for some of them at least – I’d imagine that not every backer is pissed at the news. The biggest threat for the Oculus Rift at the moment is its community. If it loses the community, it loses its purpose. And where will that community head towards if they abandon the Rift? Why to Sony’s ‘Project Morpheus’ of course. In Project Morpheus, gamers might see everything that they hoped for with the Oculus Rift. Even if they stay close to what they promised, they’ve probably already lost gamers to Project Morpheus, purely because of their distaste for Facebook.
So perhaps the Oculus Rift isn’t exactly doomed. The concept is still there and I’m sure it’ll be a good piece of tech, whichever way it goes. But Facebook has most definitely doomed the Oculus Rift that we played on a couple of months ago. That machine is long gone and now we just have to wait to see which direction it goes from here. Still, at least it’ll probably be quite exciting! The next step in gaming is almost upon us.