Why Facebook Buying Oculus VR Is Not the End of the World
Why You Can Stop Freaking Out, Internet
1. Facebook is not stupid.
Yes, they’re an obnoxious corporation. Yes, they have a disturbing track record on privacy. Yes, Facebook is not cool and I have no love for them or their ilk. But they are not bad businesspeople and they certainly aren’t stupid.
They just spent $2 billion on a hyped proof of concept. The number is surprising, sexy, impressive. In my opinion, it’s the riskiest and largest pre-order in history of the gaming industry, made by one of the most powerful companies on the Internet. There is no formal announcement for a release date for the consumer version (CV1), or even a list of system specs yet. It’s half-made at this point without being half-baked. The key here is that this purchase shows that VR is a real thing now, no longer just a Kickstarter video or an impressive GDC demo. It’s a legitimate product with a viable future.
Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR is a $2 billion statement of trust and hope. One of the main reasons gamers don’t like Facebook is that Popcap and Zynga-produced games on the platform are basically the bottom dungeon of game quality: slick-looking and totally vapid. Yet Facebook doesn’t make games or hardware, Oculus VR is still making the hardware.
The greatest fear seems to be that since Facebook is such a terrible company, therefore Oculus VR or the Rift hardware will become equally terrible because of hypothetical managerial interference. Visions of the Faceboculus streaming ads for Viagra pills, mandatory Facebook logins, and unskippable trailers for the next Nicholas Sparks movie make us retch. Remember, Facebook is not cool, and as we’ve seen with EA, acquisitions of cool franchises can often spell death.
They know a good bet when they see one. Facebook is a company that prides itself on data analysis and trends. It’s their bread and butter. They know to take such a pillar of cool and slap a Facebook logo on it, turning it into some ad-drenched social media, Farmville-style crapfest would be an immensely stupid and expensive decision.
2. Oculus is not stupid.
And there is zero indication that this is ever going to happen. Palmer Luckey went on a PR offensive in response to his weakly-worded post on r/oculus, attempting to reassure people that Oculus will maintain its independence and integrity. It didn’t go well.
Yet I believe him (for now). Oculus VR has earned my trust. The Oculus Team has never made a false promise to us, never failed to deliver, and never, ever made a sprint for a quick buck. If they wanted to cash out on Oculus, they probably have had a slew of suitors begging just for the brand name so the lecherous dogs could pump and dump stock, then push it out the door as fast as possible.
People are reacting like Palmer Luckey made this decision in a vacuum, by all by himself in his childhood racecar bed, as if he ever had to go to another job interview as long as he lives. It’s not like he was staring at a yacht and wondering if he should sell his lifelong dream to a company that its fans utterly loathe. There is an entire corporate structure at work here in which his voice is extremely important, but not singular. He’s not even the CEO of Oculus VR. That’s actually Brendan Iribe. Luckey has taken it upon himself to be the company’s face and voice, including being its verbal punching bag.
That’s a large responsibility to take the brunt of an entire internet of people moaning and bitching and screaming “FUCK YOU” with the Caps Lock mashed down. Equally loud shouts of “SELLOUT” are equally dumb. Oculus VR is a company with a marketable product, not a goddamn community theatre co-op.
The truth and the real future is all in the contract ink, which none of us have privy to. Oculus has quite literally all of the leverage here. They’re being courted, not kidnapped. I am completely confident that Oculus VR would not sell themselves without guaranteeing a certain level of product quality, free of Facebook’s nastier habits, and independence to make something truly special and revolutionary: the first viable consumer VR headset. The universe would never forgive them. They wouldn’t dance with the devil if they didn’t know the steps.
3. We want VR to be popular, right?
And this is how it happens. Big ideas take big money. We’re just all screaming mainly because it’s out of left field and it’s from a slimy company that’s not cool anymore. No one would be screaming if Valve or Epic Games or ZeniMax Media bought them. It’s a product your Grandma, the same one that annoys you on Facebook, has to like. It has to emerge from the secretive Cult of Cool to the mainstream. Sorry to say, it has to get a little uncool.
Everyone like me who is insanely excited for virtual reality and the Oculus Rift also wants everyone else to be as equally excited. I want the Rift to be as popular as Netflix. I tell everyone I know about the latest news and tidbits. I annoy the living shit out of my girlfriend every time there’s an announcement, and I applaud her patience and willingness to humor me last night as I ranted and raved like you all probably have.
That’s the contradiction in the Cult of Cool. We want to share what’s cool, but not too much. It needs to be simmering under the surface of the mainstream. The virtual reality club right now is small and passionate, but growing, just about to break out into the spotlight. Now people are complaining because it’s too bright too fast. You can’t have it both ways. It can’t be a hobbyist curiosity AND the next gigantic leap in telecommunications, education, and entertainment on a global scale.
So finally, please and thank you: calm your tits.