Fang Talks

Double-reverse irony

In case it’s slipped you by, Facebook has bought out Oculus Rift for two billion Dollars.

As you may expect, this makes me very sad. But –and here’s a shocker– that isn’t strictly because of my Facebook hate or hipster attitude.
News of the buyout was met with largely negative reactions. And it’s pretty easy to see why. Oculus Rift is alienating its current fanbase, the Oculus will very likely be harder to develop for and lose its indie feel, Facebook isn’t a game tech company, and the whole thing where big companies buy everything is getting kind of scary. Let me elaborate on those points for a bit.

Remember back in 2012, when the KickStarter for the Oculus Rift was a huge success, raking in almost ten times as much as they asked for? Well-done Virtual Reality was right around the corner, and people were excited for it. The following they had after the KickStarter was a mighty solid community. Even with just some devkits out and about, people were already developing some pretty cool stuff. The OR as a platform was open, accessible.

Now they’ve sold to Facebook. Facebook, who likely will make developing for the Oculus a lot harder and more frustrating. Facebook, who will nudge the thing along a more social path. The larger part of the initial backers wanted a VR gaming platform, and it was being developed as exactly that. Chances are things won’t be that way much longer. Because Facebook isn’t a game tech company.

Facebook doesn’t really have any business in games other than driving usage and money numbers up. It’s currently unclear what they intend to do with the Oculus, but I expect a bunch of social stuff to be shoehorned in. Don’t get me wrong, VR isn’t a terrible platform for social, but let’s be real. Facebook likes money, so it’ll be showing adds, right onto your face. (This’ll also help drive prices down, making the OR affordable for more people, which fits into my next point.) Facebook likes gathering data, so for them, spreading out to other platforms like this makes sense. But for the consumers, this is starting to look like some serious Nineteen Eighty-Four shit. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but there’s very little people in first-world countries left Facebook knows nothing about.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the Oculus Rift team for selling out like this. Two billion is a lot of money, and they were kind of hitting walls in development. They feared a possibility of their product not moving anywhere anymore, and decided to bite the bullet and “do away” with it. Not a terrible move, but I’m surprised their highest bidder was Facebook.

As I said, Facebook really shouldn’t be doing gaming. Instead of cool games, possibly even AAA-titles, we’re likely to get shitty, Candy Crush- and Farmville-esque shovelware, riddled with ads and the requirement to log in with your Facebook account. It will no longer be the hacker-friendly VR platform it started out as. And this, in my eyes, is a great loss.

But hey, in the end this was to be expected, wasn’t it? The latest trend for big companies seems to be acquiring other companies and products, growing their network, becoming bigger and bigger. Hell, acquisition is the only reason Yahoo hasn’t died yet! But this is kind of scary, especially with Facebook doing a large portion of these buyouts. Right from the get-go, Facebook’s been about collecting information on people. “They “trust me”, dumb fucks.” That’s really unnerving when we’re talking about the current biggest in social media, and now owner of Instagram, What’sApp, almost-owner of SnapChat, and fresh owner of the Oculus Rift.

Notch has said it, smaller developers have said it, and I’ll say it to. I used to regret not having had the money to back OR’s KickStarter. I used to want to developer for it. Now that Facebook has it, not so much. “I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.” As I said, the Oculus won’t be the indie hacker-friendly platform it was anymore, which kicks out lots of people.

This whole deal just makes me really sad, a bit sick to the stomach even. Not just as a consumer, but as a game developer too. It goes to show that despite what ideals you may hold, however strongly, if someone waves a big enough wad of cash around, your grabby hands will latch onto it eventually. I say now I don’t want to make such a move shall the opportunity present itself, but who knows, maybe someday I will.
Oh and this acquisition means that John Carmack now works for Facebook. Just think that over for a minute.

Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportions, maybe not. Maybe something good will come of it, who knows? I wouldn’t bet on it, but we’ll see.
~ Fang

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