It's fair to say there are polarising opinions on the viability of virtual reality gaming. Some pass it off as a gimmick that makes you feel sick, while others embrace it as the future of interactive entertainment as we know it. But now one company has taken a gamble on Oculus by purchasing the company for $2 billion – and the company in question happens to be FaceBook. VR Farmville, here we come.
Mark Zullburg clearly sees a bright, lucrative future for Oculus Rift, in what could be the turning point that brings virtual reality to the mass market. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, the FaceBook founder has a much wider vision for Oculus, with plans to expand the technology beyond gaming and applying it to "communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas" in the future.
Here's Zullburg's statement in full:
"I'm excited to announce that we've agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology.
Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we're in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.
This is where Oculus comes in. They build virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift headset. When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you're actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it's different from anything they've ever experienced in their lives.
Oculus's mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences.
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.
But this is just the start. After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.
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.
These are just some of the potential uses. By working with developers and partners across the industry, together we can build many more. One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people."
Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together. I can't wait to start working with the whole team at Oculus to bring this future to the world, and to unlock new worlds for all of us."
Oculus are unsurprisingly pleased with the deal, and have also released an official statement on their company blog:
"We started Oculus with a vision of delivering incredible, affordable, and ubiquitous consumer virtual reality to the world. We’ve come a long way in the last 18 months: from foam core prototypes built in a garage to an incredible community of active and talented developers with more than 75,000 development kits ordered. In the process, we’ve defined what consumer virtual reality needs to be and what it’s going to require to deliver it.
A few months ago, Mark, Chris, and Cory from the Facebook team came down to visit our office, see the latest demos, and discuss how we could work together to bring our vision to millions of people. As we talked more, we discovered the two teams shared an even deeper vision of creating a new platform for interaction that allows billions of people to connect in a way never before possible.
Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve joined forces with Facebook to create the best virtual reality platform in the world.
At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.
Most important, Facebook understands the potential for VR. Mark and his team share our vision for virtual reality’s potential to transform the way we learn, share, play, and communicate. Facebook is a company that believes that anything is possible with the right group of people, and we couldn’t agree more.
This partnership is one of the most important moments for virtual reality: it gives us the best shot at truly changing the world. It opens doors to new opportunities and partnerships, reduces risk on the manufacturing and work capital side, allows us to publish more made-for-VR content, and lets us focus on what we do best: solving hard engineering challenges and delivering the future of VR.
Over the next 10 years, virtual reality will become ubiquitous, affordable, and transformative, and it begins with a truly next-generation gaming experience. This partnership ensures that the Oculus platform is coming, and that it’s going to change gaming forever.
We’ll see you in the Metaverse!"
This is a monumental development for Oculus, cementing virtual reality as a pertanent part of the future – pretty incredible when you consider Oculus started as a Kickstarter project two years ago. It's certainly a gamble, but then don't forget Sony was in a similar situation when they entered the gaming industry with the PlayStation after a deal with Nintendo to develop a CD Rom for the SNES fell through.
Having said that, FaceBook's offering to Oculus is pales in comparison to their purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion. Many are also concerned about FaceBook's commitment to VR gaming – it's hard not to imagine their focus on social applications overshadowing Oculus Rift core gaming credentials, which is of course what it was originally intended for.
What are your thoughts on FaceBook's acquisition of Oculus? Sound off in the comments below or on our FaceBook page.