Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality firm Oculus caught many by surprise, but what does it mean for game developers and the future of the tech?
Develop spoke to a number of developers who have already got their hands on VR tech, including Slightly Mad Studios creative director Andy Tudor, Frontier CEO and Elite creator David Braben and nDreams boss Patrick O'Luanaigh, for their reactions to the news.
David Braben - Frontier CEO
The Oculus Rift, particularly the HD version, was a great piece of kit yesterday, and it still is today. Fundamentally, it depends on how much Facebook changes things, if at all. I hope and expect the investment from Facebook means that bringing the hardware to market is now a lot easier.
There are some real challenges and expenses in bringing a piece of hardware to market, and scaling up to full scale production. I know it from my experiences with the Raspberry Pi. My guess is significant investment was needed and a powerful partner like Facebook will help them immensely.
Elite: Dangerous is probably the best experience on Oculus to date, and I hope this means more people will have a better experience with it sooner, as a result.
Patrick O'Luanaigh - nDreams CEO
So we've been working on both Oculus and Morpheus for quite a while - we'll be announcing our first big game at E3 - and have a number of VR games and experiences in development for both headsets.
I must admit to be pretty surprised about the news - I suspected that Oculus would be sold prior to launching hardware, as bringing a new piece of hardware to market globally is a big challenge, and having a large partner makes this much easier. But I am shocked that Facebook are getting into the hardware business. I guess with Google, Amazon and Microsoft all having hardware manufacturing divisions, it's time to head in that direction themselves.
Tech-bloggers are up in arms, but I strongly suspect that the mass-market don't feel the same way about Facebook.
Palmer Lucky's Reddit post is very interesting - for him, it's about 'bigger, better and quicker' and he sounds convinced that Facebook have the right plans in place for his 'baby'. I just hope that Facebook focus on giving Oculus the money to do it right, make it easy to share experiences and games with friends, but leave it at that.
I've been fortunate enough to visit Oculus's HQ in Irvine, and they're an incredibly talented and fast-moving company. If Facebook is smart enough not to change anything else, this could be a great deal for both parties.
Put it this way - Oculus's launch budget just went up massively.
Andy Tudor - Slightly Mad Studios creative director
These are exciting times for virtual reality, no? If anyone out there still has a Virtual Boy they’ll be going “See, SEE!” to their friends right now.
So I think the Facebook acquisition was pretty shocking to most people but when you think of how people share their experiences on Facebook already - pictures, videos, chatting - and how people game together - co-operative, competitive, social - it’s not that far-fetched to imagine a future where you might invite a friend into your virtual world to hang out, maybe play a game together, or view your photos or videos in some sort of virtual gallery space. So beyond gaming there’s tons of potential there and it seems to be something that definitely piqued Facebook’s interest.
Currently the physical form of the headset and the immersion inside it make for a very ‘solitary’ experience but a social platform like Facebook could evolve that to the mainstream market, definitely. It was encouraging too to see that gaming was still a priority - and indeed being fast-tracked. If that means the Oculus guys get all they need faster, bigger, better, stronger etcetera then that’s good news for gamers and the chance of VR really taking off.
James Brooksby - Born Ready Games CEO
We have been supporters of Oculus since the days when we were both on Kickstarter together and they kindly sent us an early kit. In implementing Strike Suit Zero on Oculus we learned a lot about VR, mainly how incredible the experience is, which is something that really can’t be conveyed with words. You really have to try it before you can understand it.
However playing with it does have its limitations - some games you’d really like to work well, simply don’t. (Strike Suit works really well by the way). On the other hand, you realise what an amazing future non-game applications have in VR, from social VR art galleries, to VR cinemas, to VR education, but also VR social hang outs, and it’s for the last example that I can see where Facebook may be going. Second Life VR perhaps?
On the reaction specifically to who bought Oculus, I personally think that Oculus as a business was always made to be bought and it was just a matter of who. And if you make an amazing thing, and want to be paid properly for that, then it’s going to be a really big company that buys you - and which really big corporation would the fans of Oculus like to see it bought by? None of the ones I can think of I suspect.
I see this news as a good thing as it’s a serious investment into VR, and as I am a firm believer that VR is now here as a real thing and will develop tech that leads into pushing AR next, I am glad that the whole world is sitting up and taking notice of VR this time around.
Rick Vanner - Owner of The Game Creators
I was very surprised about this acquisition, it came right out of the blue and didn't make a lot of sense immediately. One hopes the Oculus Rift team are able to continue their vision for the hardware and their plans aren't compromised in any way. PC Games should not be affected by who owns the Rift and being part of such a large corporation will ensure it can evolve and become mainstream. I'm hopeful this will work out for the various VR usage scenarios - only time will tell.
David Reid - CCP CMO
We’re very excited for our friends and colleagues at Oculus. We share their vision about the future of VR and gaming and are looking forward to participating in the consumer launch of the Oculus Rift with EVE: Valkyrie.