The virtual reality (VR) community was rocked to its core this week with just 3 simple words; Facebook bought Oculus. Suddenly the indie company that could is part of a much larger organisation, with response to the news being mixed. While many have embraced the change, recognising that Facebook’s backing greatly reduces the monetary risks that the company was facing, outcry from fans has also been rife, citing issues with the company’s privacy policies among other aspects.
That’s just one side of the story, though. In fact, we’re yet to hear much from arguably the most important part of that community, the developers. Yes, Notch has distanced himself from Oculus in the wake of the news, but there are plenty of others out there already making Oculus Rift content. VRFocus spoke to a range of developers that are already working with the headset to give them their chance to speak.
It seems that many have welcomed the news, having shaken off the initial shock. Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams, had that exact reaction. “I’m excited and surprised in equal measure by the news,” he told VRFocus. “I suspected that Oculus might sell this year – launching hardware globally is a difficult and expensive business, and they will now have a significantly larger launch budget and more assistance in getting the manufacturing, marketing and distribution right. But I was shocked that the buyer was Facebook, given their lack of history with hardware/manufacture.”
However O’Luanaigh reasoned that the deal stands to greatly benefit both sides. For Oculus, it “allows them to do things bigger, better, faster and at a cheaper launch price” while in “Facebook’s point of view, it makes them a major player in VR, a potentially massive new area – it’s a bet for the future.”
Some developers, such as Born Ready Games’ Jamin Smith, currently working Strike Suit Zero, noted that the negative reactions to the news were premature. “Very little has been said about Facebook’s specific plans for the tech, and fears that we’re simply going to see the likes of ‘Farmville VR’ and be served ads all day long are unfounded. There’s still plenty to get excited about, and if Oculus – and VR in general – was every going to permeate the mainstream, it was going to take somebody like Facebook to put their weight behind it. Let’s wait and see what happens.”
Others admitted that their initial reaction might not have been so positive, given Facebook’s reputation. MAG Studios’ Shaun Williams recognised this, saying “With this acquisition, the main gripe most people have is with Facebook. With its bad reputation and being known for buying everything up in their desire for financial gain, a lot of people are “anti-Facebook” anyway. “
That said, Williams believes that this deal “levels out the playing field” between Oculus and its newly-announced rival, Sony Computer Entertainment’s Project Morpheus, which would help his studios’ projects, Ghostship: Aftermath and CDF Ghostship.
“In the long term, we will have to see what happens, but for now I still have as much respect for Oculus Rift as when I first started development,” Williams concluded. “Oculus is still running the show, they just have much more resources available now. They got there first! And that is what matters, with $2 billion investment I think it’s safe to say that Oculus Rift will be the leader when it comes to PC VR.”
That level playing field sentiment was echoed by Spectre developer Proscenium’s Louis Arrigoni, who reasoned that the initial reactions weren’t phasing developers. “Although I can understand the way people are reacting to this situation, a lot of the responses are simply impulse reactions, and do not match the views of us developers,” Arrigoni said. “At its core, this huge boost in funding will mean a much better, faster, cheaper CV1 product for release, and puts them on equal standing with Sony and Morpheus in terms of resources – benefiting everyone who is working on VR.”
Arrigoni had his own unique point to raise, though, noting that the “real situation this has brought up, and one we are all looking forward to improving with Oculus, is their severe lack of communication and support with indie developers.”
Jaime Cross of Monstrum developer Team Junkfish confirmed that the deal hadn’t effected his view either. “Hopefully it pushes VR in general into the general public’s consciousness, which can only be good for anyone planning to make games or apps or anything else for it,” he said. “Facebook’s investment in tech companies such as Instagram hasn’t really changed them much if at all, so I’d hope this will be the same case. So long as Oculus continue down the path they’ve said they will and remain an open platform to develop for then I’m sure they’ll rebound from the blow back they’re currently receiving.”
But it’s not just videogame developers that are excited about the deal. The Oculus Rift has thousands of applications, and digital marketing agency Visualise has capitalised on its technology more than once. Co-founder Henry Stuart welcomes the news: “Firstly, the acquisition will highlight Oculus, 360 degree and immersive content to brands that haven’t yet considered ways it could benefit them. Secondly, it will create public interest in a bleeding-edge area of content that just a few short years ago wouldn’t have been possible.
“Thirdly and perhaps most significantly for us and the brands we work with, I predict it will expedite the process of bringing Oculus to the masses as a commercial product. This has incredible in and out of home applications. For instance, given the Oculus Rift headset gives wearers the same disorientation and spatial awareness, members of the public could trial a new theme park ride before it is even open to the public, or be given a test drive in a car that isn’t on a forecourt in the world!”
It’s clear that developers aren’t ready to write off the Oculus Rift like some fans have, then. In fact, many recognise points that haven’t been as widely considered as they perhaps should. The effects of the Facebook buyout are yet to be felt, but VRFocus will be here to cover it every step of the way.