The gaming community is in uproar today after news broke last night that Facebook has paid $2 billion for Oculus, the start-up making waves for its revolutionary virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift. Many gamers and developers (including those at Valve, operator of the popular Steam digital game storefront) see Oculus as a leader in the future of gaming. Mark Zuckerberg apparently thought so, too. In a statement posted on – where else – Facebook, Zuckerberg lauded Oculus’ headway into the gaming industry, but noted that it’s just a “start” regarding what the platform is capable of.
Gamers, however, aren’t neccesarily excited about Zuckerberg’s involvement. Confusion at the news quickly turned to anger, with many gamers accusing Oculus of selling out. The acquisition comes only two years after Oculus raised $2.5 million on Kickstarter in 2012. Approximately 75,000 people have already pre-ordered the Rift, a peripheral piece of hardware priced at $350. It was resounding success for a start-up creating an entirely new market with no prior success. Oculus was a company that, in many minds, was built by gamers for gamers. For many, selling to Facebook isn’t just bad business – it’s a personal betrayal.
Developers, on the other hand, are cautiously optimistic. Polygon reached out to many developers who were surprised at the buyout, but still excited about working with the hardware. Notch, an outspoken developer at Mojang famous for creating Minecraft, tweeted: “We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.” Clarifying his position with Polygon, Notch noted that he didn’t “ever want to get stuck trying to target a platform not focused on games.”
While it’s impossible to predict the future, Facebook’s betting big on virtual reality as the platform of tomorrow. Oculus investors are comparing the acquisition to Google’s purchase of Android in 2005, which, at the time, confused analysts. While the short term repercussions of the deal may be negative, Facebook may do more to boost virtual reality than Oculus could have accomplished on its own. Sony announced last week that it was working on its own virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus, and it’s doubtful that Oculus could have survived against Sony without serious investment from an outside force. Whether or not that survival was worth a deal with the Facebook devil, however, is still up in the air.