The fallout after the Facebook acquisition of Oculus Rift has left the tech and gaming world completely rocked. The once beloved startup is now a fallen hero that has become Oculus Rift is licking its wounds after it what sometimes sounds like the end of the world from its backers and fans.
Their take on the whole situation? They didn’t think it would be such a big deal. VP Nate Mitchel said to Game Informer, “We assumed that the reaction would be negative, especially from our core community,” Mitchell said. “Beyond our core community, we expected it would be positive. I don’t think we expected it to be so negative.”
Add to this Carmack’s befuddlement over the deal on Peter Berkman’s blog, “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting Facebook (or this soon). I have zero personal background with them, and I could think of other companies that would have more obvious synergies… I wasn’t personally involved in any of the negotiations — I spent an afternoon talking technology with Mark Zuckerberg, and the next week I find out that he bought Oculus.”
You can see a pattern forming. This decision was made in complete ignorance as to what it would mean for the face of the company and the product. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss hardcore fans when they sling around death threats and other silliness, but to not know how loathed the Facebook brand was to the broader public is something that can only happen if you’ve been living under a rock. Honestly, that’s something that might be expected looking at the people who are heading up Oculus. Many of them are hardcore developers who spend years working on breathtaking technology away from the public eye, often popping up out of the blue awing everyone. These were likely the last people who should have made such a decision and it may not have been made with as much thought as it should have if the CTO, John Carmack, wasn’t aware of what was going on, although he does assert otherwise during his chat on the blog. “However, I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don’t make a commitment like they just did on a whim.”
Well, from the outside it certainly does look like it was made on a whim. It looks like Oculus took the first big money that was thrown at them, and that may very well be what happened. The truth is that what they are putting out there will be expensive normally, and chances are they wanted someone who could take the hit of pushing this thing out there at a loss. Microsoft could have done that, and they probably needed to if they want to compete with the PS4 which is now coming out with its own Virtual Reality alternative. Nintendo might not have been a bad call. Despite their Wii U woes they are sitting on a lot of cash and pushing out a real Nintendo On would have been a coup. From all accounts Valve is rolling in the dough and having this as their very own peripheral for Steam Machines would have guaranteed them a spot on top of the gaming pyramid.
Now they have ever more competition to deal with. True Player Gear is coming out with a headset that runs a lot of the calculations within the visor, meaning that unlike Oculus you won’t need a good rig to run good VR. If it doesn’t cost a fortune, especially if they can make a deal with any of the above titans of cash, then it might be game over for Oculus in one bad business move. It’s also not meant to be as claustrophobic so you can use your keyboard, mouse, or anything else without taking it off and they already have lenses that are adjustable so you don’t need to wear your glasses. It looks like a pretty sweet setup, and if they can pull off what they claim it looks like everything Oculus Dev Kit 2 wishes it could be.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Oculus managed to land Michael Abrash, someone everyone’s been eyeing. He’s seen as one of the greatest computer engineers of this generation and the man is known to be a miracle worker. If there’s anyone who can turn this around its him, so long as Facebook doesn’t step in and truncate what he can do. Remember, all of the apocalyptic nay saying is just that, nay saying. There’s no reason why Facebook won’t just dump their cash into the project and stay away from how the project is run and keep their hands out of the pot. If they were smart they’d let these people just do their jobs and use this buyout to make some first party social software that’s totally optional and reap in the profits when this thing hits big regardless. Facebook is only known how they run Facebook, and maybe they’ll be smart about this and not try to push their Facebook philosophies on Oculus.
If we are all lucky that is.