Hours ago Facebook made an announcement that no one saw coming: they decided to purchase the Oculus Rift. This news has caused a large backlash from all ends of the internet. The Oculus Rift promises a viable future in virtual reality, and people were most excited about exploring virtual reality through gaming. It may not come as a shock to know that Facebook is not exactly oriented to the standard of high gaming that the community of Oculus Rift supporters is fond of. Facebook, after all, is notorious for being a breeding ground for browser games like Farmville, Bejeweled, Zynga’s entire library and all of their clones. These games are not necessarily terrible, but no one that has any proper sense of how much depth a video game can have is going to say and of them are particularly good.
Meanwhile, the Oculus Rift development kits have been used in games with massive depth such as a first person Pokémon experience, Skyrim in VR, and some have even played Minecraft using Oculus Rift technology. Gamers everywhere had high hopes for this device and excitement buzzed around the notion of a truly immersive virtual reality experience. Today’s purchase has more or less shattered any hope that the gaming community had for the device to bring about a revolutionary change in the way that video games are created and played.
Fortunately for gamers dismayed at Facebook’s purchase of the Oculus Rift, especially those that own a Playstation 4, Sony will be releasing a virtual reality device, the Morpheus headset, to compete with the Oculus Rift. This may be a ray of hope for those retaining interest in the possibility of virtual reality gaming. This is important because though it may seem that only internet communities are causing the backlash towards the purchase, Notch, the creator of Minecraft has expressed a reaction of his own. In a lengthy blog post he has disscussed why he will no longer offer official Minecraft support on the Oculus Rift, and has also expressed consideration towards taking Sony’s route for exploring his game in a virtual reality space. He also expressed distrust about Facebook’s business practices and motives surrounding the purchase. It is likely that many game developers who had originally intended to utilize the Oculus Rift for their own creations will follow suit.
Although the Oculus Rift will likely lose a good deal of support, the $2 billion from Facebook will certainly help their development team realize whatever visions they had hoped to achieve for the device. But what does Facebook have in mind for the device? Redditors and other internet communities have already taken to humorous speculation in the form of memes, gifs, and other reactions involving outlandishly unnecessary uses for the device. Humor aside, however, it is disheartening to consider the possibility that the gaming community could seriously lose such an innovative instrument to the abyss of hollow gaming that Facebook could drag the Oculus Rift into. Or maybe Words with Friends in virtual reality is a great idea that the world needs to see. Perhaps the backlash from Facebook’s purchase of the Oculus Rift is absolutely warranted, and not simply grumpy gamers being grumpy gamers. Perhaps there is more to lose than to be gained from this. Time will tell, but will the gaming community even want the answer by then?
Opinion by Michael Foster