FACEBOOK, The Social Media Megalith has purchased Oculus Rift-a relatively unknown Virtual Reality firm for 2 billion dollars. Who is Oculus Rift and Why would Facebook Pay 2 billion real dollars for a virtual reality company? Oculus started with a wave of internet support as a kickstarter proposal. The company promised it’s crowd-sourced financiers that it could fulfill their childhood fantasies and create the world’s first consumer grade Virtual Reality headset. In order to do this the company would have to climb a mountain of technical and economic challenges. In order for consumers to embrace VR-the headset would have to be light, small, durable and affordable. With the release of version 2 of the Oculus headset those goals are in sight. The incredible accomplishment of the little firm has proven the viability of Virtual Reality which was regarded as little-more than a 90’s based gimmick. There were few game developers interested in VR but the hard-won success of Oculus has inspired a shift in attitudes.
The potential of Oculus seems to have provoked larger firms like Sony to see a future in VR. Sony has announced it’s own Project Morpheus, a VR accessory for it’s Playstation 4 and Microsoft has announced it’s effort to develop a similar device for it’s XBOX! The matchup between Oculus and these larger properties seemed destined for the demise of Oculus. In the gaming industry, distribution is everything and content is king. Game developers want the titles they create to be available for the most popular game systems. While everyone seemed to respect the moxy of this upstart tech company and it’s brash young founders, the entrance of the “big guys” meant that Oculus had a truly difficult path forward. The purchase by FACEBOOK completely alters the industrial equations. FACEBOOK’s name alone-in addition to it’s seemingly inexhaustible resources signals the potential of Oculus to grow into a viable platform for game developers.
Facebook’s vision for Virtual Reality goes far beyond video games. Mark Zuckerberg imagines the technology to be firmly within Facebook’s social media wheelhouse. Zuckerberg imagines virtual hangouts with your “friends”. Tomorrow’s Facebook friends won’t just be clickable icons and lengthy profiles. They will be interactive avatars, sitting on the couch next to you. He imagines virtual shopping centers that enhance the shopping experience. And in sports he imagines courtside seats and sideline vantage points that make the best seats in the stadium available to any consumer. Virtual Reality has a very real future and thanks to Facebook, so does Oculus Rift.