While Facebook isn’t giving up on virtual reality, the social giant is putting its related content efforts on hold. That means Story Studio -- the virtual reality film studio operated under the Oculus umbrella -- is shutting down.
“After careful consideration, we’ve decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production,” Jason Rubin, VP of content at Oculus, notes in a new blog post.
Since Story Studio launched about two years ago, the market has changed dramatically, according to Rubin.
“Now that a large community of filmmakers and developers are committed to the narrative VR art form, we’re going to focus on funding and supporting their content,” he said. “This helps us turn our internal research, development and attention toward exciting but unsolved problems in AR and VR hardware and software.”
Rubin said he and his colleagues are more committed than ever to growing the VR film and creative content ecosystem. Last year, Oculus laid out an additional $250 million to fund VR content from developers, by his estimate.
The recipients of those funds included games such as Robo Recall and Rock Band VR, as well as “experiences” like the Follow My Lead experience featuring the 2016 NBA finals.
Moving forward, “we’re going to carve out $50 million from that financial commitment to exclusively fund non-gaming, experiential VR content,” Rubin promised. “This money will go directly to artists to help jump-start the most innovative and groundbreaking VR ideas.”
Facebook has a lot riding on VR. That became clear when it dropped $2 billion on Oculus VR in 2014. More recently, Facebook launched Spaces -- its virtual chat room, complete with cartoonish avatars, customizable environments and various multimedia offerings.
First unveiled last year, Facebook announced the general availability of Spaces at its F8 Conference, last month.
Naturally, avatars can be customized, then put to use at “parties” -- where up to eight users can engage in virtual socializing -- as well in more private “rooms.”
Unlike Facebook’s flagship social network, the cost of Spaces admission is steep.
To join the virtual party, people will first need to fork over $599 for an Oculus Rift VR headset, and -- if they want the full Spaces experience -- another $199 for some Oculus Touch hand controls, $49 for special Oculus earbuds, and $79 for an additional sensor for “room scale support.”