In 1995, Nintendo released a video game system called the Virtual Boy, which was touted as a virtual reality gaming platform. In short, you would be able to feel as though you were in the environment of every game. This idea, while interesting on paper, was poor in terms of execution and it seemed like no one took a stab at virtual reality in gaming since then. Yes, there might have been rumblings here and there but no company wanted to make another attempt at it.
That was, however, until the entity known as Oculus VR made its presence felt with the Oculus Rift. For those who do not know, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality head-mounted device that was created in 2012. Since that time, it’s been in development but the support it garnered has been, in a word, tremendous. With a Kickstarter-funded amount of over $2,400,000 and notable names in gaming like John Carmack coming onboard the project, the Oculus Rift is under a perpetual microscope.
This is even truer now, as Facebook announced its purchase of Oculus VR for $2 billion, separated between cash and stock. Facebook detailed that the acquisition of Oculus VR was done in order to expand its efforts in gaming. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that this endeavor presented the opportunity to, “create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.” Is it possible that VR gaming can become the hottest thing not unlike the Nintendo Wii in 2006?
If anything, I feel like the Oculus Rift has much more of an upside than the Wii. Keep in mind that the Wii’s motion controls, while intuitive at the time, were ultimately limiting and there were only so many gameplay ideas that could be created. The Oculus Rift, on the other hand, has the potential to immerse gamers, as any online marketing company would be able to recognize. The idea of turning your head and looking in the direction as your character is simple on the surface. Yet, it’s one that seems too good to be true. Judging by the reactions following Facebook’s aforementioned announcement, ‘too good to be true’ appears to be the case for many.
For example, Markus “Notch” Persson said that he did not want to work with Oculus VR while it was under Facebook’s ownership. The owner of Mojang – and the man behind indie game sensation Minecraft – said that while he sees the potential in virtual reality, he does not view Facebook as a video game company. He believed that Facebook was focused on nothing but “building user numbers” and creating a more social experience as opposed to one specifically rooted in gaming. Persson even cancelled the deal for Minecraft’s release on the Oculus Rift, which is stunning considering how many platforms the game is already on. In theory, Persson would want more exposure.
“With online gaming being so commonplace, shouldn’t this acquisition be better received?” While this is a fair point to make, it can also be argued that the social media and gaming audiences do not exactly overlap. Someone can go online for a round of “Call of Duty: Ghosts” and have fun but this does not mean that they’ll talk about it on Facebook or Twitter. Some gamers do not want social media integrated in their pastime; they either do not see a reason to have social media accounts or, for one reason or another, have actively avoided them at all costs.
What is your take on Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR? Do you think that this is a step up for these companies? Do you believe that it will create an unneeded dent in the Oculus Rift’s proverbial armor? Please leave your thoughts below!