Facebook has announced that it will be acquiring Oculus VR for approximately $2 billion. Yeah, you read that right and I'll give you a moment to let it sink in. The company that gave rise to the social gaming phenomenon now owns Oculus VR, the current home and employer of iD Software founder John Carmack. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014.
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and Oculus VR CEO and founder Palmer Luckey have both released statements on the acquisition. Zuckerberg's statement was posted on Facebook, showing his thoughts behind the acquisition. In the statement, he states that Oculus VR's gaming plans "won't be changing" and in fact Facebook hopes to accelerate them.
"Our mission is to make the world more open and connected," said Zuckerberg. "For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we're in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences."
"This is where Oculus comes in. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences," he added. "Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won't be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there's a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. We're going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this."
Zuckerberg's plans for Oculus VR extend far beyond simple gaming though and if you imagine the extensions for Oculus Rift tech, then you'll start to realize why Facebook paid $2 billion.
"But this is just the start. After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences," said Zuckerberg. "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. These are just some of the potential uses. By working with developers and partners across the industry, together we can build many more. One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people."
Luckey released his statement on Reddit, letting Oculus Rift fans know that Facebook's acquisition means fewer compromises in the final product.
"In the end, I kept coming back to a question we always ask ourselves every day at Oculus: what's best for the future of virtual reality? Partnering with Mark and the Facebook team is a unique and powerful opportunity," wrote Luckey. "The partnership accelerates our vision, allows us to execute on some of our most creative ideas and take risks that were otherwise impossible. Most importantly, it means a better Oculus Rift with fewer compromises even faster than we anticipated. This is a special moment for the gaming industry - Oculus' somewhat unpredictable future just became crystal clear: virtual reality is coming, and it's going to change the way we play games forever."
With Facebook's considerable resources, we could be seeing a cheaper Oculus Rift than originally announced. This also means that Oculus VR has a lot more money and weight behind it, allowing it to reach out to more developers and partners in the PC gaming market. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, who has called VR technology a "very small market", thinks that Facebook's acquisition helps Oculus VR move beyond its chicken-and-egg dilemma.
"Deeper pockets gives Oculus a chance to get a lot more content," Pachter told us via email. "I have always thought that the platform would have trouble attracting content until it achieved critical mass, and would have trouble achieving critical mass with limited content."
It's not all sunshine and magic though: some developers don't want to deal with Facebook in any fashion. Minecraft creator Markus Persson tweeted that Mojang was cancelling a possible Rift-powered version of Minecraft.
"We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out," he tweeted.
"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," Persson added in a post on his personal blog. "And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition. I have the greatest respect for the talented engineers and developers at Oculus. It’s been a long time since I met a more dedicated and talented group of people. I understand this is purely a business deal, and I’d like to congratulate both Facebook and the Oculus owners. But this is where we part ways."
I think I can safely say no one expected this.