Last year legendary game developer John Carmack left his position at id Software to pursue his passion for virtual reality as chief technology officer of Oculus VR. While Facebook’s $US2 billion acquisition of Oculus came as a surprise to Carmack, he believes the company has what it takes to make his vision of the “Big Picture” happen.
Carmack’s comments of the acquisition were delivered in the form of a comment posted on an entry from the Tumblr of Peter Berkman, lead songwriter and guitarist for chiptune rock band Anamanaguchi. Berkman’s post, titled “Wrong and Right Reasons To Be Upset About Oculus”, suggested that many railing against the acquisition were upset for the wrong reasons, focusing on minor issues like VR ads or potential rebranding of the Oculus Rift, rather than the potential for data mining virtual reality and information monopoly. Berkman’s post culminates in disappointment that another promising independent tech company has gone the way of so many before it.
It is deeply upsetting to watch independently operating forces that create life-changing innovations get sucked into the old system just as they reach potential to break a standard model.
Carmack’s comment addresses that final point, holding up Valve as an example of a small tech company with a big idea that stayed the course. “There is a case to be made for being like Valve, and trying to build a new VR ecosystem like Steam from the ground up.” The difference, he points out, is that for years the industry thought Valve’s plans for a digital distribution platform were nuts, so he company was able to cultivate a new market with little competition.
That’s not the case with virtual reality, says Carmack.
VR won’t be like that. The experience is too obviously powerful, and it makes converts on contact. The fairly rapid involvement of the Titans is inevitable, and the real questions were how deeply to partner, and with who.
While this particular form of partnership came quicker than Carmack expected and from an unexpected source, Carmack seems confident in Facebook’s ability to bring his VR dreams to fruition.
…I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don’t make a commitment like they just did on a whim.