VR vs. The Room

Kevin E has positive news about Oculus- if only there wasn't this negative news about Oculus. Not this again, surely(!)

Everybody stop what you are doing! Yup, you. You reading this. Stop what you’re doing as well. Cancel all the plans you have. I don’t care if you’re getting married in the morning, if you’re currently in an argument with a foreign power, if you’re about to win a contest, or even having lunch. Stop the nuptials, hold fire with the end of the world and seriously, for heaven’s sake put that sandwich down.

I have hot breaking news. Well, maybe not breaking and maybe not hot. I have lukewarm news you might not have heard about. It involves Oculus and no it’s not about the issue they had over the weekend with the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in America.

Oculus from Facebook artIf you’re not familiar with that story, which we reported on Sunday, there was the usual Oculus demo booth at the conference showing off virtual reality (VR) to attendees.

There was just one problem with them doing so, the shadow hanging over CPAC was what was going to happen or be said in the aftermath of the tragedy that occurred in Florida. The current President of the United States has pretty much blamed everyone and anything at this time and yes, the spectre of “it’s the videogames I tells ya!” has descended once again having long since supplanted the idea of the ‘video nasty’ being responsible for every horrendous thing in the eighties and early nineties.

Oculus turned up of course, with their usual array of videogames demos.  Unfortunately, that included Bullet Train. Which quickly became the face of ‘violent videogames’ at the event, with people upset that with all this going on guns were ‘being used to sell products’ and in the face of much criticism, the title and others (apparently) had to be withdrawn. Now I’m reliably informed by comments in response to our reporting on it that it is a “non-story”; I would say in response tell that to Oculus. Because by the time we reported on it a heck of a lot of national and international outlets including the USA Today and the BBC already had.

Bullet TrainIronically, what’s perhaps more awkward for Oculus was it wasn’t them expressly that the scorn fell on. Barra apologised on behalf of the company, but the headlines all were to do with Facebook. It was Facebook‘s mistake. It was Facebook who didn’t think. Oh dear… More bad publicity for the parent company.

I don’t blame Oculus for touring with Bullet Train. After all, the demo has been a part of their booths since “the year dot” (as my Mum would say), and it’s likely not something they even consider anymore. Bullet Train remains one of the best introductions to VR for gamers that you could ask for. That said, whilst there is a bit of a difference between the VR demo (why hasn’t it been replaced with Robo Recall, incidentally?) and what happened in Florida, Oculus did fail in this instance to do what you should always do – read the room. I’ve always felt that to be something of an American phrase. Reading the room. It is a good one though.

It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that Oculus were a little bit slow on the uptake. Considering which, that brings me back to the amazing news that I wanted to share with you. Don’t look now everyone, but the Oculus Store on the web actually has a search function at last! Holy crap! I don’t know exactly when it happened, but damn if it isn’t progress. Actual, honest to God progress. I know the addition of a search function to a website is hardly going to set the world on fire, but damnit I’ve been banging on about their web store – their OFFICIAL online store – not having such a fundamental aspect of online retail for well over six months, and it had been like that for a long time prior to me talking about it.

[Insert Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah here]
Look! Look at it! I even like the section dropdown now. Very useful. That’s all it needed. A little bit of forethought. Unfortunately, it seems, Oculus are still in afterthought mode at the moment. Hopefully though they’ll learn from these. Both of these. Because each situation in its own way showcases Oculus’ awkward ability of being its own worst enemy.

And if your biggest problem is yourselves, that makes it so much easier for your rivals.


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