Oculus plan to make Facebook accounts mandatory for all of their VR headsets, starting with new users from October 2020, Oculus announced last night. The move comes as part of the VR giant's plans to end support for existing Oculus accounts on January 1st 2023 and shift everyone over to the same system as their parent company, Facebook. The idea is that it will "make it easier to find, connect and play with friends in VR," according to Oculus, as well as "make it possible to integrate many of the features people know and love on Facebook."
It's also a sure-fire way to make sure swathes of VR users never buy an Oculus headset ever again.
As for existing Oculus account owners, they will be given the option to merge their Oculus and Facebook accounts starting from October, so they can continue using their VR headsets as normal. If they choose not to merge their accounts, they will be able to carry on using their Oculus account for another two years, but support for it will end on January 1st 2023.
After this point, users will still be able to use their Oculus devices, but "full functionality will require a Facebook account," Oculus have said.
"We will take steps to allow you to keep using content you have purchased, though we expect some games and apps may no longer work. This could be because they include features that require a Facebook account or because a developer has chosen to no longer support the app or game you purchased."
Apart from already laying the blame at developers' doors, the real kicker is that "all future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account, even if you already have an Oculus account," according to the blog post. Well, that's me never buying a new Oculus headset, then, as I deleted my Facebook account after the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed the social network had been leaking millions of users' personal data for political advertising, and I'm not going to create another one just for the purposes of VR. I don't want any of my data tied up with that platform full stop, and even the idea of creating an empty shell account with a fake name and zero info still sits uncomfortably with me.
Maybe that's a bit rich coming from someone who does still have an Oculus account after all this time (I do need it for work in fairness), but the really infuriating thing about this whole business is that Oculus have said that "when you log in with a Facebook account, you can still create or maintain a unique VR profile." Just like we currently do by having our own damn Oculus account. They continue:
"And if you don’t want your Oculus friends to find you by your Facebook name, they won’t - just make it visible to ‘Only Me’ in your Oculus settings. You can also choose what information about your VR activity you post to your Facebook profile or timeline, either by giving permission to post or by updating your settings."
The whole thing is just a big kick in the teeth, and I hate how much this has soured my opinion of both the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest. They're irritatingly good VR headsets compared to their HTC competition, and ever since I got them all in for testing around the launch of Half-Life: Alyx, the Oculus Rift S has been my top VR headset recommendation for those who don't want to shell out for the Valve Index. Now, I'm not sure I can recommend it quite as wholeheartedly as I did before.
Your feelings about Facebook may differ, of course, but for the many hundreds and thousands like me who have consciously tried to distance themselves from Facebook over the last couple of years, this news comes as a low blow indeed.