In perhaps one of the most unexpected bits of technology news this year, Facebook yesterday announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire virtual reality startup Oculus for an astonishing $2bn. That's right, TWO BILLION DOLLARS - not bad for a company that was so reliant on a Kickstarter campaign to get off the ground a couple of years ago.
The social media giant announced the deal in a conference call led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where it outlined its vision for Oculus, the Rift, and wearable/VR technology in general, noting that virtual reality has the potential to become a major computing format in the years ahead.
However, despite Oculus and its investors now being filthy rich, the gaming industry has reacted incredibly negatively to the news. The overriding fears seem to be that Facebook will hijack the Rift, turning it from a potentially world-changing piece of technology into nothing but a vehicle to drive ads, user profiling and low-quality games fuelled by micro-transactions.
It's not just the players themselves who have voiced concerns, Markus "Notch" Persson reacted quickly to the news, announcing quickly on Twitter that his company's plans to create a Rift-compatible version of Minecraft had been shelved immediately following the announcement, and following that up with a more detailed explanation on his personal blog...
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.
That latter part seems to be one of the major concerns here, as many who contributed to the Rift's Kickstarter project certainly didn't do so with the intention of simply funding the company to be set up for a massive corporate takeover.
As is usually the case, though, it's unlikely that things will turn out as badly as many are predicting, and assuming Oculus gets to play at least some part in the direction of the headset, as well as future technologies, it's likely that the Rift will still be a hot item when it finally launches its consumer model within the next couple of years.