Why The Internet Is Wrong About Facebook & Oculus Rift
Oh the outrage! Our precious indie darling Oculus Rift has been swallowed whole by the Corporation! There should be rioting in the streets!
Let’s be honest, how many of you actually cared about Oculus Rift, or even virtual reality? Sure a select group of technophiles will lap it up, but the general gamer? Nope. Nada.
Since its Kickstarter, Oculus Rift became one of those potential futures that was being forced upon us. Much like the film industry and its unrequited adoration of 3D, Oculus Rift was something we were told would be the future – not something gamers were particularly clamouring for.
I wouldn’t say I was a VR pessimist – I love all new technology, and if I’m given a compelling argument I’ll find it hard to say no – but it did seem like the love Oculus Rift was getting was, primarily, from the media.
Gamers, by and large, rolled their collective eyes.
But this isn’t an argument about whether or not Oculus Rift is the future; if we left it to gamers to decide we’d all be playing Call Of Duty for the rest of our lives. Ultimately, I wasn’t sold on Oculus Rift.
Until Facebook got involved.
Facebook, Oculus Rift & The Backlash
There’s been a number of opinions on Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus Rift flung onto the internet, but it’s something that we – on NowGamer – largely avoided.
We covered Sony’s Project Morpheus, of course, but didn’t do a story on Facebook’s $2 billion dollar buyout. It was all a little business for us; we don’t care who funds what, so long as games are made.
The general consensus is, though, that with Facebook getting involved with Oculus Rift games won’t be made. Or, at the very least, they won’t be the focus.
By Facebook’s own admission, Oculus Rift’s future won’t be gaming.
“But [gaming] is just the start,” said Mark Zuckerberg in his official statement. “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.”
That, for me, was far more exciting that playing something like Gone Home with my head. That, to me, was a compelling reason to buy Oculus Rift outside of the novelty of peering around virtual corners.
Videogames have long been a means for me to experience situations and events that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and part of that came through the interactivity.
But if – just by putting on a headset – I can exist in two places, I can see things in the real world I would not have been able to see otherwise, then I’m on board. Gaming would just be a quaint addition to all that potential.
Of course the irony here is that I’m talking about a future outside of games, after having said the Facebook deal was too business to talk about.
The Future Of Oculus Rift
But the point is, Facebook has money. Facebook has a lot of money.
Facebook bought WhatsApp because WhatsApp was more popular on mobile than Facebook.
Facebook bought Instagram because Instagram had a service already set up. The infrastructure was there, the logistics were there, Facebook just needed to pony up the cash.
The point is Facebook can do whatever it wants. If Facebook wants VR to happen, then VR will happen – public opinion be damned.
Rally against it all you like, if this is the future Facebook wants then it’s the future. It just is.
This is partly the reason many Kickstarter backers are up in arms. Those who did pledge for the Oculus Rift may already have their set, but somehow they feel they’ve invested in something that has – to the eyes of the beholder – sold out.
They paid for a prototype, basically, for that to then be sold to a larger company that doesn’t share the same interests.
Suddenly Oculus Rift went from being a technophile’s gaming wet dream to being part of ‘The System’. No longer was it the potential future these backers wanted, but a sullying of their hopes and dreams.
Those people should feel honoured, though.
The Problem With Kickstarter
Kickstarter backers felt so certain of Oculus Rift as gaming’s future – while people like me scoffed and made Virtual Boy jokes – that they were willing to pay good money for the project to happen.
It had since garnered positive interest in the media, developers left their roles to work exclusively on VR, Sony is releasing its own equivalent and even rumours pertain to Microsoft and Razer getting involved.
Backers ought to feel justified. They helped make this future possible, relevant even.
And you can’t get more relevant than Facebook.
If Facebook does succeed in making Oculus Rift a viable product – and, honestly, there’s no reason why it can’t – then that doesn’t mean that games will be excluded.
Because the videogame industry has always been driven by technology and where the tools are there to empower new ideas, game developers will find ways to make something for it. Such is the verve and creativity our industry is filled with.
And if millions are interested in VR, then it means the likes of Project Morpheus, Microsoft’s attempt and whoever else feels compelled to enter the market will also become viable.
If Sony stays true to Project Morpheus as a PS4-compatible device, then the focus here surely must be gaming. It perhaps won’t be the only feature of the headset, of course, but will certainly be a big, big part of it.
So while Facebook getting involved might seem like a negative for gamers, it’s actually the absolute best thing that could’ve happened to virtual reality.
You should be thankful.