Fans of Oculus VR’s virtual reality game headset are furious that the company is being bought by Facebook for $US2 billion.
They seem to believe that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will mine their spectacular 3D landscapes for user data, and stuff their games full of cheesey ads.
That’s not likely to happen — we’ll explain why later — but that actual reality has yet to dawn on the folks who prefer to live in Oculus’ virtual reality.
Under the official announcement of the deal, a gigantic comments thread — using Facebook’s comment system, ironically! — has filled up with Oculus fans criticising the company for selling out. Here’s a typical reaction:
Tobias Carrier: This means probable integration with Facebook’s existing business models of harvesting all the personal user data they can get their hands then getting it in to the hands of the highest bidder and the government/NSA. Now that level of invasive ness is going to be strapped to my head? Yeah right. Facebook is NOT a gaming company. They are an information harvesting company.
The thread begins like this:
Their ire has been fuelled by Mojang’s Markus “Notch” Persson, the hugely popular maker of 3D desktop building game Minecraft, who announced he was pulling his game from Oculus because of Facebook:
“We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.”
Persson later wrote:
Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.
The odd thing about these criticisms is that Facebook’s track record with acquisitions suggests the opposite will happen. Zuckerberg is very hands-off with the companies he buys, and Facebook is rich enough to allow those companies to continue running at a loss for months or years before they think about trying to find a revenue stream.
Instagram is one example. That company had zero — $US0! — in sales when Facebook bought it. The launch of ads on the platform was delayed several times. And even now, it’s rare to see an ad pop up in your Instagram stream.
WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $US19 billion, is a better example. The CEO of that company HATES advertising and has almost no interest in collecting data about his users because he grew up in the Soviet Union and learned at an early age to despise the KGB and their domestic spying.
So in terms of Oculus’ future growth, this is good news: The team there will likely be left alone to develop and create for several years.
So why did Facebook buy Oculus if it doesn’t want to fill your virtual stereoscopic world with highly targeted ads? As my colleague Jay Yarow explains, it’s because Oculus has functions that go way beyond games. It’s a platform that can be used any time anyone needs to see something that’s some distance away. As such, it’s an evolution of computing, from desktop to mobile to virtual reality.