Facebook purchased VR headset maker Oculus VR this afternoon for $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in Facebook stock. One can only speculate what Facebook will do with a virtual reality gaming accessory company that is still under development but some are saying it’s because they moved too slowly to acquire other social communication platforms. Both Instagram (photos) and SnapChat (IP messaging) grew quickly which drove up their prices and forced Facebook on the defense.
After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.
This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.
Perhaps the Oculus purchase was a pre-emptive purchase. A land grab at what he sees as the next great communications platform. Another theory is that by grabbing the gaming community’s latest shiny object, he can play pied piper and bring the games over to Facebook. That may be an uphill battle. Game developers want integrate social into their games, not the other way around.
Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.
Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend’s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you’re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?
But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.