Facebook’s Oculus Rift acquisition continues the VR dream…
Virtual Reality (VR) is an inevitable future; and it’s one very-rapidly becoming realised thanks to the plucky-ambitions of Kickstarter-success Oculus and their ‘Rift’ headset. It’s an admirable story, and the headset – now in its second iteration – is nearing a consumer-ready device…
Unfortunately for Oculus, Sony is also nearing such a device in their “Project Morpheus” – which is also looking promising…
Then, albeit in a different space, there’s Google Glass – the web company’s interesting Augmented Reality eyewear. Whilst Oculus currently focuses on gaming; it’s a natural assumption that the company will soon enter the AR area as well… and that’s what Facebook is interested in.
When a startup goes head-to-head against a major player – it’s rarely a David vs. Goliath situation. The resources available by Sony, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and other tech titans - all put anyone partnered with them at a considerable advantage, and those opposed at an unenviable disadvantage.
We expect to see the same situation in the smartwatch space, where – unless a major acquisition occurs – Smartwatch-darling ‘Pebble’ is like to struggle against Android Wear devices and any iOS equivalent. This is certainly not for lack of a great device; but rather for lack of reach in both consumers and developers from a much-smaller ecosystem.
Developers are what make or break a platform, and they will go where it is most profitable and has the biggest demand – generally where the most market-share lies.
So for Oculus to continue its VR campaign; it required some form of acquisition. This isn’t the issue which has caused so much backlash – but rather that the company chose to partner with Facebook. Critics are worried the device will become laden with advertising, and invade personal privacy which the social network has come under fire for many-a-time.
Facebook’s recent-history with acquisitions hasn’t been too much to worry about. Jon Russell over at The Next Web wrote a great piece entitled “Selling to Facebook is no longer ‘selling out’” and points towards acquisitions using their new-found billions to grow independently – whilst tapping into the resources by the social giant.
Many, including me, thought Oculus would be a great-buy for Microsoft as a competitor to Sony’s Project Morpheus. But it wouldn’t be good for Oculus’ future; it would have been more of a “talent acquisition” and the company would have been swallowed up…
When Oculus’ co-founder Palmer Luckey was asked on Reddit if they’d consider such a buy-out, he said: “Why would we want to sell to someone like MS or Apple? So they can tear the company apart and use the pieces to build-out their own vision of virtual reality? One that fits whatever current strategy they have? Not a chance.”
Microsoft is said to have been building its own VR hardware for a long-time now; and it’s not clear whether the company was even interested in putting an offer in for Oculus.
What is clear is that Luckey feels his company has more “freedom” under Facebook than it ever had before – he points out four main points; 1) Custom hardware can be made. 2) More talent is affordable. 3) Greater investment into content. 4) The end-consumer will pay a “greatly” lower price for the Rift.
Developer icon, John Carmack of ID Software, tweeted his support for the deal:
For the record, I am coding right now, just like I was last week.I expect the FB deal will avoid several embarrassing scaling crisis for VR.— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) March 26, 2014
But not all are so happy… Mojang’s Markus Persson has cancelled plans for an Oculus version of Minecraft based on the announcement:
We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.— Markus Persson (@notch) March 25, 2014
Facebook is saying that gaming will still be its priority – and for getting it out the door that will surely be the case – but call bluff on that being the reason why Facebook wants Oculus…
The social network doesn’t want Google Glass users running around being all social with each other on Google+ do they? Google is Facebook’s only real threat to their social networking empire thanks to their massive web presence… Fall behind in the next social advancement and Facebook could crumble.
What do you think about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus?