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I'm Not Losing Sleep Over Facebook Buying Oculus (or VR in General, Really)

On 03/28/2014 at 09:00 AM by gigantor21

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So people have been flipping their shit over Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Kickstarter-backed Oculus. Tears have been shed over the "golden son" of the latest VR craze going corporate. Vitriol has been flung at Oculus, CEO Palmer Lucky and John Carmack over "selling out". Paranoia over Facebook integration, data-mining and ads have swept the Internet! It's mass hysteria!

Well I, for one, don't really give a shit either way. 

See, I'm not sold on VR. Despite all the breathless praise for the concept being sung from the rafters lately, I don't really buy the "next big thing in gaming" talk surrounding it. There are several issues surrounding it that give me pause.

One big one is price. The dev kits for the Oculus Rift go for $350, and the company has been cagey about how much the finalized consumer product would cost. But even if the device is at a good price (say, $100 or less), it's still designed with gaming PCs in mind--the company has gone on record saying that the latest consoles aren't going to be powerful enough to run it. 

A key factor in the success of touch controls is that it leverages technology that everyone already owns. Traditional controllers for phones aren't nearly as big, meanwhile, because of the added cost, niche appeal and inconvenience that comes with them. If people had to pay an extra $100 in order to play Angry Birds or Candy Crush, those games wouldn't have taken off, It's main potency as a product would lie in making it a standalone device with it's own processing, memory and storage capcacity (i.e. Google Glass), but any decent specs will not come cheap.

The second issue is useability. How does this add anything to a game like, say, Street Fighter? Or Shovel Knight? Or even Tomb Raider? Games that aren't designed with first-person perspective in mind--where the tech shows it's most potency--don't benefit from or need VR. Thus it's potential uses for gaming would be limited regardless of how much it cost to use it, much like the Kinect or the WiiU Gamepad. It's far more valuable as a general entertainment or educational device, frankly--something that a company like Facebook is suited to take advantage of.

Then there's the whole issue surrounding Kickstarter backers getting mad.

I went back and looked on the Kickstarter page, and saw no "promise to stay independent" stretch goal or reward tier anywhere. At what point were backers promised a say in the direction of the company that leadership had to defer to? Or the promise of financial compensation for their investment? Yet I've seen any number of pissy comments that demand one or the other, just because they pre-ordered a dev kit and Doom 3 basically.

The people who pledged already got what they paid for a year and a half ago. Whatever warm and fuzzy feelings they had about being part of some grassroots movement was just that--feelings. It is by no means the same as, say, being an investor who owns a stake in the company. I find it hard to feel much sympathy for the backers moaning about this when they assumed far too much about what their pledges actually got them to begin with. 

So yeah. Given all that, I'm having a hard time drumming up enough interest to join the debate over whether or not Facebook's purchase has "ruined gaming". And to be quite honest? Facebook leveraging the technology for more than making PC games more immersive will likely make the tech far more viable in the long run. And given how other companies are rushing in with their own models, it's not like OR is going to be the only game in town.

I'm just going to leave my pitchfork at home for this one.



Matt Snee Staff Writer

03/28/2014 at 09:41 AM

I for one, am excited about VR and Oculus.  But I don't give a shit about Facebook buying them either. I think it will actually be a good thing and give them the cash they need to make it more mass market.  Sure, it's a niche item now.  But what about in ten years?  I think Facebook was very smart with this acquisition.

Super Step Contributing Writer

03/28/2014 at 09:50 AM

I can't wait to see what magic Zynga has in store for the thing. Playing Candy Crush with a headset on for no fucking reason is gonna be awesome!

But yeah, I agree. Truth be told, I think genres that are not first person can be made to be first person once the tech is there, and Facebook has at least the money to do it quicker than it probably would have been otherwise. I'd love to play a Power Stone or a Zelda made in first-person perspective on the thing. 

And Candy Crush, obviously. I've never played it, but Words with Friends is a nice rip-off, I think. I haven't played that in forever either, though. I prefer real Scrabble, because my family and I have the best sleep when it gets into that final stretch and we say "fuck this, I'm tired, highest score so far wins."  


03/28/2014 at 04:57 PM

I think Facebook buying them makes it far more likely that it won't stay niche for that long, frankly. It may well end up being the big-name push the technology needed to give it mass market potential.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

03/28/2014 at 05:52 PM

I agree.  But I don't think it will really take off for some years yet, and not in its current iteration. 


03/28/2014 at 06:34 PM

I'm real excited for VR and the possibilties it could offer. 1st person games are my favorite types of games from stealth games like Thief and Dishonored to shooters like Half Life to puzzlers like Portal to exploration games like Myst and the upcoming The Witness game. VR tech could be the perfect way to play the particular games I enjoy most.

You could create some truly awesome 1st person detective games with VR. You could focus more on exploration, examination, and investigative work instead of having to settle for an action game like Arkham City or LA Noir that has some lite detective mechanics mixed in with the action game that it is at its core. You could see indie games and/or smaller budget big studio games that could focus on creating a detective game from the ground up without having to rely on shooting to progress the game.

VR doesn't take anything away from anybody, it's not there to replace anything or get rid of genres, it's there to open new possibilities. Gaming is more diverse than ever before, there's a little something for everybody out there, and I think a lot of people are trying to expand that variety further, which is what we need. VR is a tool that might help bring some new variety and experiences out. There's a lot of creative people and developers who are exceedingly passionate and excited about what they could do with VR, that's a really good sign.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

03/28/2014 at 06:55 PM

yeah I'm really excited about it too.  Dammit, sci fi novels promised me VR, and I'm gonna get it!  Tongue Out

Like you said, it's not here to take away from other types of gaming, it's just a new, different thing.  We have COD on this side, and we have Flappy bird over here, and now we have VR and they can all get along fine. 


03/28/2014 at 11:27 AM

I just don't care about the whole thing.  I didn't know what Oculus was until I read your blog.  I have not interest in it at all. Laughing


03/28/2014 at 04:58 PM

Wow, how the hell have you missed it for the past 2 years? LOL 


03/28/2014 at 06:19 PM

When I say no interest, I mean it.  I probably wouldn't of read your blog about it, but the name was popping up too often for me to ignore it any longer.  Now that I know, I can go back to ignoring it again. Laughing


03/28/2014 at 01:20 PM

I honestly dont care either since im more interested in Sony VR headset for the PS4. I rather have one for a gaming console then PC since most of my gaming is console done.


03/28/2014 at 05:00 PM

And I fully expect to see far more companies jump on board if the technology takes off. Can't blame you for feeling that way.


03/28/2014 at 02:23 PM

VR is one of those things that sounds better on paper than in real life.For one thing, VR isn't VR to me until I can look at my own body and see the hand of the character I'm playing instead of my own body. For another thing, I can imagine that the porn industry will be all over Oculus Rift, and that will be quite the rabbit hole we'll go down...


03/28/2014 at 05:01 PM

There are already Japanese sims on the OR letting you look up an anime girl's skirt, so...yeah... XD


03/28/2014 at 03:29 PM

I guess Facebook is thinking about using Oculus as a better way to do video chat?

I am imagining Angry Birds Oculus right now. That be wack!


03/28/2014 at 06:41 PM

Yeah, they said that was one of the areas that they were interested in pursuing. Which would be pretty cool TBH.


05/14/2014 at 02:03 PM

Facebook's buy may not have killed the VR unit for gaming, but it sure has pushed it back a few years. Whether it's for the better or worse remains to be seen. I'm just glad I didn't chip in and still cling to the tried and true gaming input system that makes games what they are, and not just the basic mobile gaming out there right now.

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