Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week or so, you’ve no doubt heard that Facebook acquired virtual reality company Oculus for $2 billion. As was discussed on a recent episode of the Free For All podcast, and in a post last week by the one and only Torrey Barnett, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg talked about some of the possible future uses of VR headsets like the Oculus Rift. The guys on the show talked about many ideas including experiencing sporting events from the comfort of your home but seeing the action from some of the best seats in the house. While this sort of thing seems like a really cool idea, many gamers who were fans of the Rift’s original purpose, gaming, are outraged. You don’t have to look too far to find a lot of cursing and anger aimed at Zuckerberg and Facebook for taking something that was originally designed for gaming and turning it into another money making scheme for the social network giant.
As Senior Tech Editor here at Free For All, I wanted to give my thoughts on this momentous news as well. While I can understand the frustration coming from gamers, I can’t help but feel like they’ve chosen to focus on parts of Zuckerberg’s post and completely ignore others. In his post the Facebook creator specifically stated that Oculus would be operating independently within Facebook and will, at least for the moment, continue to focus on building a gaming platform. Here is what I feel is the key paragraph in Zuck’s FB post:
“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.”
To me this shows that Zuckerberg gets what Oculus is all about, and while he sees other possibilities for the technology, the acquisition does not mean that FarmVille VR is on it’s way. It would appear that Oculus is going to have some autonomy to do their thing, and possibly benefit from the deep pockets of Facebook. In fact, the first sentence in the graph above claims that Facebook hopes to accelerate Oculus’ plans for bringing VR to the market even faster.
Only time will tell if these claims come from the heart or if they’re meant to assuage the angry mob that is the Internet. Time will also show us whether or not virtual reality is something that anyone really wants in their homes, gamers or not. We’ve all witnessed the rise and fall of 3D for the home, and VR could go the same way. It is possible that parts of Zuckerberg’s vision of what the technology is capable of could turn out to be a deciding factor in the success or failure of virtual reality. Personally, I would be a lot more likely to invest in something like the Oculus Rift if I knew that I could do more than just play video games on it. Give me virtual reality seats for a Red Sox game at Fenway Park that I could never have afforded otherwise, and I’m in.
It will be interesting to see if Facebook and Oculus guide us into a new era of entertainment, or if Mark Zuckerberg got a little too excited and blew $2 billion on the wrong horse.