While many people were scratching their heads and asking “What’s Oculus?” following the virtual reality gaming company’s acquisition by Facebook earlier this week, a smaller
group was asking “WTF Oculus?” Many of the people who backed Oculus on Kickstarter are not at all pleased with the decision to sell to Facebook, which they consider a case of
Although there are hundreds of angry comments (or rants) to choose from, one of the most eloquent statements came from Markus Persson, creator of the online
virtual world and gaming phenomenon Minecraft, who had contributed $10,000 to Oculus on Kickstarter. He summarized many of the key complaints from disgruntled backers.
tweeted: “We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just canceled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.” Later on his blog, Persson explained: “Facebook
is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. …
Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR… But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with
games.” (emphasis in original)
Persson then want after Facbook in even more explicit terms: “I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook. Their
motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven’t historically been a stable platform. There’s nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to
me. And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.” (emphasis in original)
From a layman’s perspective, I have
some reservations of my own about Facebook’s decision to buy Oculus, related to Persson’s points. As Persson notes, Facebook is not primarily a gaming platform; to the extent it has games,
they are mostly casual games unsuited to VR. While there are millions of gamers out there who might plausibly spend, say, $500 for a virtual reality headset, it’s harder to imagine non-gamers
ever buying in -- and that’s most of Facebook’s user base.
In short, while the idea of combining social media with VR is an attractive one in the abstract, there is an enormous
hurdle to be overcome in terms of cost and utility for non-gamer users.
My second question will probably reveal my total lack of sophistication about VR, and I’m sure some
enthusiasts will be kind enough to explain what a moron I am in the comments. But my question is this: Besides being more “immersive” in the sense of totally filling your field of vision,
how does VR really differ from, say, Second Life, where you can already navigate a virtual world, create avatars and objects, socialize and collaborate, and all that good stuff?
cringingly wait to be enlightened -- try to be gentle.