Why Facebook Acquiring Oculus Rift Is A Good Thing

Today a million people will hear the words ‘Oculus Rift’ for the first time.

They will hear the words ‘Virtual Reality’ probably for the first time since the 90s, and they’ll say to themselves, “oh I remember Virtual Reality. I remember playing Virtuality Boxing at Intencity Parramatta.

“I wondered what happened to virtual reality.”

They’ll make the same jokes we did, back when we first started discovering the Oculus Rift, the jokes we’re still making now. Shit jokes. But all part of that communication, the sound of word spreading about this new technology that could potentially change the way we play games, the way we do a lot of things.

Then mainstream media will want to hop on board. You’ll hear about the Oculus Rift on the The Project. The panelists will crack the same jokes the public are making today; the same jokes you made a couple of years ago. But it doesn’t matter, it’s not important. Here’s what is important: virtual reality is about to become a thing.

Virtual Reality is about to become a mainstream thing.

Here are a lot of numbers with the word ‘billion’ in them. Facebook has 1.2 billion active users. In 2013 Facebook made $7.872 billion in revenue. Facebook could afford to pay $2 billion to acquire a technology that could have potentially been doomed to a niche market, squandering all its incredible potential, squandering a genuine chance to change the world through interactivity. This is now a potential that has an exponentially stronger chance of become a hard reality.

If we want to do more than just play a modded version of Skyrim using a virtual reality headset, then Oculus Rift needs a company like Facebook. It needs a company that can provide the exposure and funding this new technology needs to succeed.

It needs customers. It needs potentially millions of customers. The more people exposed to this technology, the more people who decide it’s important to their lives the better.

The Oculus Rift needs a userbase. It needs that number. If we want the best games, the best interactive experiences, big talented development studios need to look at the Oculus Rift and think, ‘we need to be releasing games on this platform’.

Proper, from the ground up games developed specifically for the Oculus Rift.

I don’t know if we ever had that guarantee, a guarantee that Oculus Rift could leap from our world — from blogs, from gaming sites, from tumblr – and capture the imagination of the broader audience. Now there is a far greater chance of that happening. That audience is there. They will hear the words ‘Oculus Rift’ for the first time and they will be curious.

There are easy criticisms of Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift and by God have people been quick to leap straight to those assumptions.

Ladies, Gentlemen, children. To the panic stations!

— All games will have Facebook ads
— Facebook will intrude in ALL of your interactive experiences
— There will now only be free-to-play games on the Oculus Rift
— Facebook is ‘the man’ and by extension, this is terrible

Etcetera, etcetera.

It’s a massive unfair overreaction that bears little resemblance to what this deal actually means for the future of virtual reality.

Sure there are legitimate concerns, and it would be dishonest to ignore those concerns. Privacy issues, I think, would be one of my main issues, but let’s take a look at these two sentences, taken from the Oculus Rift team’s statement on its official site.

“This partnership is one of the most important moments for virtual reality: it gives us the best shot at truly changing the world.”

Now read this:

“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.”

This should tell you two things.

First: gaming is going to remain the absolute focus of the Oculus Rift, at least to begin with.

Second: this is a partnership that gives the Oculus Rift the best possible chance of literally, actually changing the world.

This is what I’ve been waiting for: a statement of intent. Virtual Reality is, and should be, about something bigger than gaming.

Consider what Mark Zuckerberg said in his own statement.

“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.”

And then later…

“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.”

Again this should tell you two things.

Gaming first; then the world.

I love video games. But I also love the potential experiences virtual reality could bring to my life outside of video games. I think that potential is equally as important as new interactive experiences. This deal gives the Oculus Rift the best possible chance of working as a gaming platform and as a platform that changes how we communicate with one another and that is extremely powerful.

Facebook has changed my life. Facebook is not perfect but I can honestly say that it has enriched my relationships with my friends and family. On the whole, it has been a positive force in my life, personally. We need to think bigger than, ‘ugh Farmville will suck in virtual reality’.

We need to think, ‘my life is going to be better with virtual reality’.

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