The much anticipated, much ballyhooed VR device, Oculus Rift, is now a part of the Facebook empire. I know this because as I sat down at dinner last night I felt a great disturbance, as if half the people I follow on Twitter had spontaneously combusted. It’s amusing to me how much hugely successful companies are hated. It’s not that such hate isn’t ever deserved so much as how much it eclipses in people’s minds what initially made it popular in the first place.
Never did more people hate Microsoft than when everyone and their brother used Windows. I’m not sure Facebook could be anymore hated right now if it tried, this despite about a quadrillion people still actively using it, and by choice. I tend not to get too wrapped up in that hate and, really, you shouldn’t either, especially over the Oculus acquisition. Not because Facebook won’t do terrible terrible things to it, but because they haven’t yet. The yet is important. It’s entirely possible it goes the other way. So let’s just all breathe for a minute.
What we know, right now, today, is that the parties involved are all saying the right things. The fact that you hate Facebook doesn’t inherently mean Facebook is going to do Facebook things to the Rift that will turn it from your next gotta have device into something that you won’t stand next to while wearing a radiation suit. Facebook may be out to use you for every dollar it can squeeze through your pores, but they’re also not stupid and neither are the founders at Oculus. These guys eat, sleep, and dream VR. They’ve moved the virtual ball far, far down the field, towards producing an affordable, workable product for end consumers to purchase. Do you really think they’re going to compromise all that when the goal line is in sight?
“Great virtual reality has different requirements than great cellphones,” says the founder. “This is going to let us do things that would have just been far and away impossible without Facebook.” —Palmer Luckey, co-founder (via TheVerge)
Yes, $2 billion does a lot of talking. You’d be a fool to suspect, however, that there weren’t other offers for the company. Lucrative ones. There surely were, which means Luckey and his band of renown almost surely had choices about how to approach their future. And yet they still chose Facebook. Call it a desperate cash grab and the end of Oculus if you want, but I choose to believe these guys know exactly what they’re getting into and I don’t believe they’d chart a course that means the end of Oculus as a viable product.
Eventually I may be proven wrong about that, but I say that if you championed the Rift yesterday then you should still champion it today. The tech hasn’t changed. The only thing that we know has changed is that Oculus now has way more money and clout than they had yesterday and those two items open a lot of logistical doors. That is a win for them, no matter what you think about Facebook. When the final Rift iteration emerges and it requires Facebook log-ins, access to your wall feed, and instant sharing of all your activities with 3rd-party companies to deliver targeted advertising, then you should rightly complain. But until that happens, keep your head because this partnership could also turn out to be the best thing to happen to Oculus, not to mention those of us who plan to purchase one.
*Originally published at NoHighScores.com, 3/26/2014
*Updated 2/2/2016 (minor text updates)