What: Facebook Buys Oculus VR For $2 Billion

By Nathan Grayson on March 25th, 2014 at 10:00 pm.

Update: Palmer Luckey has posted on Reddit about the acquisition, his perspective on Facebook’s goals, and Oculus’ continued relationship with the gaming world. “Very little changes day-to-day at Oculus, although we’ll have substantially more resources to build the right team.” Nothing about those pesky privacy issues, though.

Original story: It’s not quite April 1st yet, so I guess this is happening. Oculus VR, the daringly sexy eyeware fashion company/hobbyist virtual reality outlet has officially been purchased by, um, Facebook, of all things. It sort of makes sense, I suppose, given that VR stands to radically alter the way people communicate from long distances, and that seems to be Facebook’s focus here. Problem is, the social media goliath sent out a press release that’s full of bits like, “mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow” and hey wasn’t Oculus Rift a PC gaming device at one point? Also John Carmack works for Facebook now, and that’s just weeeeeeeeird.

Here are some pertinent bits from Facebook’s press release:

“Facebook today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Oculus VR, Inc., the leader in immersive virtual reality technology, for a total of approximately $2 billion.”

“While the applications for virtual reality technology beyond gaming are in their nascent stages, several industries are already experimenting with the technology, and Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas. Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.”

“’Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,’ said Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. ‘Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.’”

MOST SOCIAL PLATFORM EVER. FROM THE DANKEST CORNER OF YOUR DARKENED BEDROOM.

Seriously though, virtual reality does present some incredibly fascinating, almost Matrix-like possibilities for communication, as I discussed with Oculus and CCP during D.I.C.E. And while having Facebook’s bulging monetary muscle hoisting Oculus like in that one scene from Titanic won’t hurt, it does mean Facebook will likely get to call some shots down the line. For now, though, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg implied that Oculus will get to keep doing its own thing with games.

“Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate,” he wrote in – what else – a Facebook post. “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 that is apparently just the start, and Facebook’s eye is very much on communication applications. Zuckerberg proposed examples ranging from attending a basketball game courtside to consulting a doctor to attending class. And you’ll never have to leave your home. Hurrah? I am honestly not sure how to feel about those examples, but I suppose the hope is that one would take the VR magic carpet across oceans and continents – not to their village grocer, metalsmith, or alchemist.

There is also the issue of Facebook’s sometimes rather dubious approaches to privacy, targeted advertising, and the like. I am not sure that’s something I want bleeding over into my virtual reality – let alone defining the entire movement, given how nascent it still is.

At any rate, this is all still fresh and crazy. I’ve contacted Oculus with some questions, and I’ll let you know as soon as I hear back. In the meantime, I hope they don’t change the Oculus Rift’s name to the Facebook Face.

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365 Comments »

  1. bad guy says:

    facelook
    ?

  2. Harlander says:

    It’ll probably be fine. Companies can have diversified interests and there doesn’t have to be a unified brand for all of them..

    So we probably won’t be seeing an “Oculus Rift brought to you by Facebook” on the box. Which is good, because that’d make me vomit up a lung.

    It’ll be fine. Right? Right!? Guys!?

  3. schlusenbach says:

    This is sad, but tomorrow Microsoft will announce a shiny new VR-Headset and the gaming world will rejoice “Thank you for saving us, MS!”

  4. Blaaaaaaag says:

    I just can’t see this partnership working out very well… I can’t imagine my mom is going to want to wear that headset for 10 hours a day.

  5. bonuswavepilot says:

    From hither:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/technology/facebook-to-buy-oculus-vr-maker-of-virtual-reality-headset.html?hpw&rref=business&_r=4

    “According to a person involved in the deal who was not allowed to speak publicly because he was not authorized by either company, Facebook eventually plans to redesign the Oculus hardware and rebrand it with a Facebook interface and logo.”

    :’(

    • JJRPIII says:

      So the gaming tech everyone with a working brain has been dreaming of since the 80s is now in the hands of a company whose core mission is to lock users into it’s network by inserting itself as the middleman in key lines of communication with their own irl friends and then to constantly piss them all off with control freakery and crap design in a never ending search for maximum profit.

      There is no god.

  6. xaphoo says:

    I’m looking at the Reddit Oculus community — the backlash against this is humungous, righteous rage and fury. This is the kind of backlash that will kill a product. I really don’t think Oculus will survive this.

    People seem to be hoping Valve will fill these shoes.

    • MkMax says:

      why wouldnt it be ? this was kickstarted, this had a huge community supporting it, fans, mods, devs going out of their way to develop things and add support for it without any monetary reason

      and then suddently a huge corporation puts all that community investment in their pocket

      sigh, Valve has no chance to cover this, i feel the fan support was crucial and they wont rally behind another corporation even if it has way better image

      • particlese says:

        This fan would totally jump ship to Valve. I stand by my earlier comment here, but I would love it if Valve got pissed and did something about it. Oculusface could potentially skew manufacturers towards making VR-optimized stuff (screens, sensors, …) instead of “good enough for phones” parts, and Valve should be able to make something more gamer-friendly without too much fear of an army of IP lawyers since they and others have presented a lot of info in the open before this…thing happened. I hope. My main fear is that I underestimate the stupidity and shortsightedness of Fæcebook’s controlling shareholders, but we’ll see…

        Anyway, yeah, I would gladly trade HL3 for a VR hardware push from Valve, a la Steam Box. Fortunately, the sets of people working on those two things would have little overlap, methinks.

  7. bonuswavepilot says:

    Not just reddit – the comments to the blog post here:

    http://www.oculusvr.com/blog/oculus-joins-facebook/

    Are none-too-happy.

    • grimdanfango says:

      Strange… I see no comments.

      Really, not much could speak louder about the implications of this sickening deal.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Top comment: DO NOT WANT.

      It has 500 Facebook likes.

      Goddamnit, people.

  8. grimdanfango says:

    Oh for absolutely unholy fuck’s sake!
    The most promising advance in gaming technology for decades gets swallowed whole by the most disgusting cancerous growth on the tech industry in decades.

    It seems that for every promising look ahead to a better future, someone somewhere just can’t help themselves but to derail it onto the same common path leading us inexorably towards that generic hellish dystopia we all fear.

    I so goddamn bloody wanted to try this too! Damn them… I’ve never felt so un-ironically like Charlton Heston on his knees in front of the Statue of Liberty.

    So I suppose now we just have to wait for the genuinely talented people of Oculus to get fed up toiling under Facebook’s lash and go form *another* independent startup, to hopefully do it properly this time.

    Fuck.

  9. Mbaya says:

    Wow, this is sad and unexpected news.

    Given the scope of what Oculus Rift could be capable of, the amount seems pretty low as well. Perhaps this also has something to do with the recent investor?

    So very disappointed…the Oculus Rift went from being one of my most anticipated pieces of technology ever into, well, I really don’t know anymore. If they truly manage to keep it separate from the whole Facebook blah blah, I guess it’ll have little effect on me…but this could go in a terrible direction.

    I certainly didn’t expect things to take this route when I backed the project…had such high hopes and now, nothing more than cynicism. A shame.

    I’d certainly welcome news of some more competition in the VR space now.

    • MkMax says:

      competition in the initial “conception” stage actually makes it a lot worse, the product is not mature enough to handle it, consider that support needs to be hacked into games, imagine some games supporting one brand and not the other, or Nvidia cards working with one and ATI working with other, and so on

  10. Walhorse says:

    Oculus Rift is dead. Long live Oculus Rift.

    A tech start up success got bought out by dotcom behemoth with no real way of generating revenue from its hundreds of millions of users. This has the potential to be brilliant. If I was running Facebook I’d be looking to get an OR headset into every household on earth. They finally have something that people will pay money for. Watching sport, anywhere in the world from the best seats in the house? Nathan may not be too enthused by the idea, but that is kind of thing that could put a headset in every lounge room.
    Think back to when we were all kids, gaming on the family PC? In just how many households was that purchased primarily to play games? In order for VR to be the next big thing it needs more than just games. It’ll need broader appeal to as ubiquitous as the PC, smartphone or tablet. Even video game consoles aren’t sold purely as gaming devices.
    Fingers crossed that Facebook don’t fuck it up. I suppose there is also always Sony and their entertainment division.

  11. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Look at it this way, finally Facebook will be able to sell a product that is like a book you wear on your face.

  12. vash47 says:

    It’s all over. Prepare for the great videogame crash of 2014.

  13. bonuswavepilot says:

    Luckey has responded to some of the backlash on reddit. Bit hard to see him amidst the noise, but if you go check out his page hither:

    http://www.reddit.com/user/palmerluckey

    His responses can be seen. They seem to point in a /slightly/ more hopeful direction, but the question remains how much it is even his call to make any more if FB now own the company…

  14. w0bbl3r says:

    Best news I heard all day.
    Hopefully this disgusting gizmo will die now, and keep society from dropping completely into the gutter for another couple of years

  15. eruvalar says:

    I cannot describe how disappointed I am now. I was really looking forward to this. But even if I swallow my pride and give money to Facebook, we all know that this will be an advertisement riddled mess now. Occulus just could not turn down 2bn, I guess. Well, I wouldn’t either, so I can not even be angry.
    This Sony thing might now actually be worth a look. I am also eagerly awaiting more commentary on this.

  16. Mark says:

    Whilst the news is fairly disconcerting the backlash is starting to look pretty hysterical.

    The idea that the Oculus is going to start flashing up Facebook ads while people use it, require a Facebook login and going to be re-purposed entirely for Social VR is clearly pretty stupid and hyperbolic. People on the internet seem unable to engage with matters of any complexity without reverting to cliches or brain-dead thinking. C’mon people the world is more complex than “OMGZ VR IS DEAD NOW!!11″.

    To me this seems much more like Facebook making a longer term bet on a technology than wanting to swallow up a company and immediately repurpose and rebrand it’s product for their own ends. People are so obsessed with media narratives and cliche’d views of a company/organisation/country rather than acknowledging they’re very complex entities with thousands of different people working for them and capable of a huge spectrum of actions and behavior. A company you don’t like buying one you do doesn’t mean everything is automatically ruined, life is not this fucking simple people.

    Gi.biz has at least posted some cautiously optimistic responses from each of it’s staff members which seem a bit smarter than the backlash groupthink.

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-03-26-roundtable-social-reality-or-virtual-nightmare?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=european-daily

    Also here are some reddit responses from Palmer luckey to some various concerns from posters which seem fairly encouraging.

    http://imgur.com/a/ftOpP

  17. Pliqu3011 says:

    Holy hyperbole batman!

    Oculus just got a big load of money, greater market presence and potentially an absolutely huge new audience. It will be cheaper for them to get custom parts, and because it will get more well known through Facebook, more developers will become interested in adapting or creating games for the Rift. If anything, this pushes VR forward, I’d think.
    Kickstarter backers should not complain (let alone get refunded…) IMO: the campaign achieved and delivered exactly in what it set out to do: get the first prototype and SDK out and in developer’s hands.

    But of couse you can disregard all that because apparently, according to the internet, Facebook is officially Worse Than Hitler, hell-bent on destroying everything fair and beautiful in this world. They want to steal our freedoms and scan our eyeballs from within the Rift so they can sell the information to the NSA and Lucifer himself. Palmer Luckey is now just a puppet of the Facebook PR department. There will 100% certainly be ads and obligatory logins all over my games because I just know and the rest of the angry internet mob tells me so. I have never felt so betrayed!!1! *foams from mouth*
    *faints*

    It’s not that I personally like that Facebook got involved in this, but things are certainly not as bad as a vocal part of commenters everywhere would have you believe.

  18. HisDivineOrder says:

    The negative reaction to this is the natural result of a niche product that got its start kicked off by niche users used to the high end promised pie in the sky dreams of focusing entirely on the high end watching as their beloved hacked-together-hey-we’re-so-hacked-we’re-gonna-”probably”-give-away-the-designs and we’ll-never-sell-out-no-matter-what-because-we-don’t-want-to-have-a-corporate-agenda ideals fall to the overwhelming flood of cash from Facebook.

    Watching the “indie” spirit fade as the chase for the casual audience that won’t go within 10 feet of one of these for years and years to come. Watching as they slowly mold it from the niche product it’s going to be for a while to come into something that can make a profit because Facebook is slowly hemorrhaging money. Watching as one by one, the Oculus employees all leave because their contracts are up and they can cash out before Facebook’s stock drops too low in value.

    Watching as first the outer appearance, then the internal specs start to suffer. Then the software. Bit by bit, the techy parts being tossed aside like a ship sinking and people desperately throwing anything and everything not nailed down just to keep the whole enterprise afloat.

    The irony will be when money becomes more of a concern to them now than it would have been before. I think there’ll be that moment when Luckey cries to the intarwebz that he was wrong, couldn’t have known this would happen, and regrets the day he chased too far, too fast. He will have learned how, “maybe he should have just settled for good enough” and not brought on all those investors just because he refused to accept compromise on his vision for the first released unit.

    Imagine if he’d sold the first Oculus as his first unit like any other company. Imagine if the new DK2 was his SECOND released unit. He’d have had two products under his belt. Instead, he’s got none. All because he refused to “settle” for less.

    That’s why when the Facebook offer came in, he had people above him and people at least equal in voting power to him. And they grinned and clapped each other’s backs.

    “We’re rich!” they cried.

    He probably looked around and shook his head. “No, people. No. We said we’d go all the way. Remember?”

    “Yeah,” one of them named Carmack laughed with champagne in his hand. “But that was before the 2 BILLION dollar offer. This is just like that day when Bethesda came a-knockin’ at my last company. Haha! We’re RICH! Imagine how many rockets I can build now!”

    And so Luckey was dragged to Facebook no matter how little or much he wanted to be. To get even a fraction of the promised money, he has to tell everyone it’s the best thing since the spork. So he will. In the dark of night, when he’s alone with his hookers and blow, he’ll know the truth.

    He sold out his soul when he took on investors. They just collected the day Facebook turned its Sauron-like eye towards Oculus.