Facebook Acquires Oculus Rift

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Shaking up the gaming headlines today, Facebook has announced that they will purchase Oculus VR, Inc. for an equivalent of 2 billion dollars in cash and stocks. For many gamers the idea of virtual reality has the potential to play games in a whole new way. After Sony’s recent announcement of Project Morpheus at this year’s GDC, the notion of virtual reality seems even more likely to sweep up gamers with a full headset in the next year or so.

Prior to today’s announcement, a VR headset (either Oculus or Morpheus) seemed like a passing fancy that would be cool to have, but not something I would ever see myself rushing out to purchase. However, now that Facebook has stepped in and basically put their money where VR evangelist’s mouths have been, I’m much more likely to believe the hype.

I’m no fan of Facebook, but their purchasing run of third party apps in the last year or so has been smart. Buying Instagram has provided a deep well of stability for the photo sharing app. The ability to tie chat across multiple platforms with WhatsApp beats having to recode their entire infrastructure in order to compete with a product already widely in use. So how does Oculus fit into the grand scheme of Facebook purchases?

Besides the inevitable VR Farmville nonsense, the purchase legitimizes what most would likely consider too geeky to be mainstream. While I spend very little time on Facebook I do enjoy combing through friends’ photos. The PS3 has a pretty cool photo app that even pulls friends’ photos and displays them in a way that beats clicking through on a desktop browser. Imagine being able to interact with photos from friends, and then meet up in a full VR session topping even what Facetime offers. Photos and Facetime are one thing, but the power behind Facebook’s money has the potential to bring gaming to an even wider audience base.

To me this is where things getting really interesting. Sony clearly has a solid product still early in development (when compared to the Rift). By introducing a legitimate mainstream name to Oculus Rift, Sony will need to dig deep to bring Morpheus out of R&D and into the market as close to a similar launch as whenever the Rift is released publicly. While Sony has the wherewithal to provide a seamless consumer level gaming VR system tied to the PS4, Oculus and Facebook have a slight advantage of being able to blanket their offering to anyone and everyone with a PC, laptop or tablet.

Hopefully VR isn’t just a fad like 3D ended up being. If it does, then we will end up with two or three years of companies having a pissing contest over which headset is better instead of devoting money into developing better games. In the grand scheme of things, competition is good and having a much bigger bankroll behind Oculus should spur Sony into getting their gear tweaked and ready to market as quickly as possible.

Are you looking forward to the next advance in interactive entertainment? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.