In a generation that places a lot of emphasis on genuineness, it may not have been a smart move for Oculus Rift to join with Facebook in a $2 billion dollar acquisition. For those still living in the ‘90s, Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset geared for gaming that began as a Kickstarter star, filled with hopes and dreams and an enthusiastic development team aiming to hit a $250,000 target. Interest in the Oculus Rift skyrocketed on social media sites, and viral demo videos led to a $2.4 million startup fund, positioning Oculus Rift to be the next big thing in video gaming.
How well does Facebook, now the official owner of Oculus Rift, fit into this picture? Both parties are enthusiastic and excited about the deal, but the backlash against it reaches farther than disappointed supporters of the Oculus Rift Kickstarter. The creator of the game Minecraft (35 million copies sold) has already shown his distaste in combining social media with virtual reality.
Virtual reality is a touchy and personal space. When Facebook started as an ambitious grassroots student project enthusiastically trying to raise their user base, it was considered pretty cool. Nowadays, with their continued obsession with their number-game and data mining, an increasing number of people are beginning to see the site as more than a little creepy. As much as I would love to play Farmville in VR (just kidding), the thought of linking my private gaming me-time experience to a platform that automatically records, mines, and broadcasts my activity is pretty disconcerting. VR is just too personal to be linked with a social media giant. Besides which, Facebook is largely run by ad revenue. If there were ever a place I would not want an ad or pop-up, literally in my face would probably rank at number 1.
On the other hand Facebook could just be using this opportunity to hedge into the Wearables and gaming market before other big major players can pick them up. There are not too many of these types of companies around. With Google Glass, Android Wear, and Apple’s iWatch making footholds and the opportunity to work with Microsoft and Sony and other developer studios, on one hand Facebook could just be buying in to put their foot in the door or they have bigger plans and ambitions – mining your subconscious user data to understand what is deep inside your head. Then your friends should be able to ‘like’ or ‘unlike’ your ideas even if they are buried deep inside your mind.
“But this is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Or maybe not.