Facebook Purchase of Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Met With BacklashLogan Burtch-Buus
Facebook empire may have finally found a much-needed breath of fresh air. Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking giant has announced that they will be spending $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR, a hardware company that has captured the hopes and dreams of many in the gaming community and the tech community as a whole with their development of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The $2 billion dollar bill amounts to $400 million in cash and the remaining $1.4 million in Facebook stock. The ink is supposed to be dry on this purchase by the closing of the second fiscal quarter later this year.
If you are unaware of what the Oculus Rift is, there is some serious catching up to do. The Oculus Rift project began on the Kickstarter website in 2012. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding organization that allows people to donate funds and support to new and innovative ideas and projects of all kinds, with donors often getting signed merchandise, exclusive access to products, and a whole host of other fun things. The service is responsible for numerous startup companies, funding people’s life-long dreams, and a host of other accomplishments. After raising an impressive $91 million for their virtual reality headset, the development team at Oculus Rift was off and running.
Quickly becoming one of the most anticipated projects in the videogame market, supporters of the project only grew more and more excited as test versions of the headset were released for both developers and the general populace. The implementation of a well made virtual reality headset could and probably would change the entire gaming industry. As Oculus VR has touted the first ever viable virtual reality headset, this project has been on the minds of many, even those outside of the gaming community. The developer and test kits of the Rift supported impressive 1080 HD displays and the ability to track the user’s movements without any additional device. Even looking past the box strapped to your face, this is something we have never seen outside of sci-fi movies.
An announcement early last week came as quite a surprise to all following the development of the Rift, a buyout from Facebook. In a statement released concerning the buyout, Zuckerberg stated that his company needed to "start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences".
This acquisition caused an immediate outpour of criticism from sites and forums from various internet communities, Reddit users in particular have reacted unfavorably. Concerns have been raised over Facebook’s shady history with data-mining, incessant ads, and information sharing. Many critics of the business move are nervous to see such an innovative technology passed over into the hands of a company with the reputation like Facebook’s.
Palmer Luckey, the 21 year-old behind the Oculus Rift, was quick to defend his product’s continued viability and support. Luckey defended himself on Reddit on the various concerns that users have raised in alarm to his decision. He stated that the decision was in the best interest of both the company and future virtual reality users because it will speed up innovation and implementation because of the deep coffers over at Facebook. This move also links Oculus VR to a lot more development teams through the giant web of Facebook games, though this isn’t a benefit in terms of quality.
Backlash did not just come in the form of complaints, however. Markus “Notch” Persson, the video game designer responsible for the wildly popular sandbox construction game Minecraft, says he has no intentions of doing business with Zuckerberg’s company. Minecraft was in the works for a virtual reality port, but Notch finds Facebook too “creepy”, to put it in his own words. Losing Minecraft won’t kill the technology’s future by any means, but this is the level of discontent and mistrust that many around the world feel towards the once dominant social media giant. While Facebook still remains at the top, key groups, younger people in particular, have been leaving the service in droves.
Minecraft was not the only interesting partnership in development with Oculus VR. Earlier this year, Oculus and Valve announced that they were partnering to bring a new project out through the combined efforts of the two companies. This virtual reality match made in heaven now seems in jeopardy. Valve has a venerable treasure trove of funding and titles available through their Steam service, losing that partnership could mean a lot. Will they follow “Notch” in breaking ties with Oculus post-Facebook?
The finger has already been pointed in the direction of conspiracy at Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, but there is a much simpler explanation. With Both Sony and Microsoft recently having released their own intentions and plans for similar virtual reality devices, the competition is already building. Google already has Google Glass and announced intentions to further develop the product so the idea of a next generation headset isn’t anything too new.
Mark Zuckerberg is just doing what he does best, being a shrewd business man and trying to hone in on what is obviously going to be a huge game-changer not only in the world of videogames, but in technology as a whole. The technology in the works at Oculus VR would not just produce a gaming peripheral, but a new entertainment device like no other, capable of connecting users to whole new worlds.
From streaming ads to playing video games, virtual reality is not just for Star Trek anymore.