This week Facebook announced the launch of cloud-streamed games from Facebook Gaming. These are games which are rendered in the cloud and then streamed to your computer. Cloud-based gaming has been seen by the industry at large as a way to make games more widely accessible by making them playable on less powerful hardware. Facebook is also betting that one day they’ll be able to do the same for VR.

Facebook Gaming’s new cloud streaming functionality doesn’t support VR today, but it’s clear that the company is eyeing it up as part of its roadmap.

Not only is the company’s just-launched cloud streaming service headed by Jason Rubin, a former Oculus executive, but VR cloud streaming is being talked about at the highest levels of the company.

Responding to a question during Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings call this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the intersection of Facebook’s cloud gaming and VR initiatives:

“Over the longer term, I think the VR piece will obviously come into [our gaming strategy] as well. Some of the cloud gaming stuff that we’re doing will, of course, be useful for VR as well, and we’re building a big community around that on Oculus. But [our cloud gaming service]… I do think will be a very exciting growth opportunity and ability to offer a lot of innovation over the coming years,” Zuckerberg said.

Rubin joined Oculus in 2014 as was a key spokesperson for the company’s VR before his role expanded into Facebook’s broader gaming initiatives | Image courtesy Jason Rubin

Jason Rubin, the former Oculus executive turned ‘VP of Play’ at Facebook, laid out the company’s cloud-gaming vision this week, opening with a not-so-secretive jab at Google’s cloud streaming service, Stadia:

We believe in the long-term future of cloud gaming, but we aren’t going to try to wow you with the wonders of our data centers, compression algorithms, resolutions, or frames per second. Cloud game streaming for the masses still has a way to go, and it’s important to embrace both the advantages and the reality of the technology rather than try to oversell where it’ll be in the future.

Rubin also touched on the reality of game streaming latency as it stands today, knowing that competitive and VR games share exceptionally demanding latency requirements which the service isn’t ready to handle just yet.

It’s critical for us to start with latency-tolerant games so we can deliver a good experience for players across a variety of devices. For the purposes of our beta, that includes genres like sports, card, simulation, and strategy games. This is cloud gaming after all, so even with latency-tolerant games players may notice some glitches. […]

As our beta progresses and cloud technology scales, we’ll increase the variety of game genres. That expansion will start in 2021 with the addition of action and adventure games.

Though Rubin doesn’t mention VR in the Facebook cloud gaming announcement, he explicitly addressed the it in an interview with Protocol earlier this year:

I can tell you this: Nobody is banking on cloud processing making standalone VR headsets viable. We have to make them viable with the chipsets that are in them. But in the long run, cloud solves a lot of problems because it most effectively puts the processing power where it’s needed. Now there’s latency issues, resolution issues, frame rate issues, tons of issues. And it’s a hell of a lot more uncomfortable when it’s a frame that’s right in front of your face than it is when you miss a frame on a TV that’s across the room. So all of these things have to be solved, but no one thinks it’s impossible. It’s a hypothetical that can be done but it’s not coming anytime soon. It is very, very complicated.

Elsewhere he added, “ultimately we’ll throw those processors in a server farm somewhere and stream to your headset. And a lot of people are going to say, ‘Oh my god, that’s a million years away.’ It’s not a million. It’s not five. It’s somewhere between.”

So while we don’t expect that the company will be rolling out VR game streaming in the immediate future, the Facebook is actively positioning itself to be offer the service further down the road.

As the only company in the consumer space with a complete tech stack for VR cloud streaming, the strategy seems sound. While other companies like Amazon, Google, NVIDIA, and Microsoft are building out their own cloud game streaming services, none of them have both a standalone VR headset and a major VR ecosystem for a complete end-to-end solution.

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  • kontis

    Imagine having Valve SteamVR Cloud gaming app sideloaded to Quest.
    Gaben massively monetizing Quests would be an awesome outcome.

    We know Valve plans cloud gaming option but we don’t know it they plan to support VR.

    • Sigma

      You can do this now using virtual desktop. I’ve been playing Alyx wirelessly on the oculus quest 2 and it works great. It isn’t cloud based…runs off your PC, but effectively works as you described.

    • ChristianWilliamson

      With Gabe’s recent plans of moving the entire company to New Zealand I honestly see them bailing on VR in 12 months. With numbers we’re seeing now. We need to stop pretending companies wont be changing a few things because of all this. Gabe’s moving the company to keep himself and his employees safe. I see them bailing out of hardware all together to just make the move half way across the planet a ton easier.

      • Valve don’t manufacture the index in-house, base stations are made by Flex in buffalo grove, Illinois whilst headset and controller are Chinese made.

        Moving their design and development offices to another continent would have no impact on production

        • ChristianWilliamson

          After losing money on steam machines, and then losing money on steam controllers. any smart business person would look to save money where they can when undergoing the expense of a massive company wide move to new zealand.

          I just don’t see gabe not being frugal when it comes to the company. i also don’t see gabe not going through with it.

          thats before we get to the personal reasons i can see gabe loving this idea. new zealand is probably one of the coolest places to live if you’re a car person.

  • Sharkz

    LOLNo Fuck Off

    • xyzs

      Never I would use that crap.
      First, cloud gaming makes me puke, then cloud gaming but from FB… let me pick my stomach from the keyboard..

  • Billy Wallace

    Rubin, what data mining frontiers exist with several billion humans connected to this cloud? What “behavioral modification” frontiers exist in this cloud? Why do we never get the transparency of those things? So tired of being the product in your ecosystem.

  • I’ve always respected Rubin and the way he talks openly and honestly about what he’s working on. We need way more people like this in the industry, and indeed all industries.

  • RockstarRepublic

    When you mix Facebook and VR, you literally get FaceF*ck.

    • ChristianWilliamson

      People can hate on facebook all they want for their ad business. But if you look at the people at oculus it’s like a whos who of the best, hands down, no better staff that money could buy on the planet when it comes to their computer scientists and programmers at reality labs. Carmack, Abrash, Rubin and like 3 buildings full of MIT graduated studs. And thats before we get to the studios they’ve bought recently.

      Facebook has problems, but so far, Oculus has been awesome. Especially since they got rid of Palmer.

      • leseki9

        “Oculus has been awesome. Especially since they got rid of Palmer.”

        The frogs were always gay.

      • Amni3D

        Their OS stability is questionable. Also the Rift S. Also how they broke Rifts worldwide 3 times without implementing an update rollback.

        I don’t care if they have “3 buildings full of MIT graduated studs” because they’re still selling a product. Also for what reason did Palmer leaving actually change anything that was palpable? He was the one yelling for an IPD slider.

        Imo they have momentum, but they’re too incompetent to survive real competition. Can’t praise them when they’re not worthy of it.

      • leseki9

        no better staff that money could buy on the planet when it comes to their computer scientists and programmers at reality labs. Carmack, Abrash, Rubin and like 3 buildings full of MIT graduated studs.

        Okay first of all you don’t need the best computer scientists and programmers for VR, those are the least important things you need to worry about. It’s extremely easy for others to compete in this front.
        What matters here are optical engineers and game developers. Regarding optics Facebook in 2020 still uses off the shelf LCD panels and well known Fresnel lens optics and their public hardware research isn’t unique or impressive either to say the least and they have only bought few indie game studios. If there’s something game industry has proven time and time again is that you can’t just buy game studio and have them pump exclusives for you. It never works, gamedev is a very creative process and requires a lot of passion, something money can’t buy. Nintendo and Sony know this too well. Another things that matters in creativity is that you don’t try to force your political or social views on the devs and players which Facebook is also terrible at.

        Also,

        Especially since they got rid of Palmer.

        This was the most retarded choice they made. Palmer was against all the downgrades we’ve seen since CV1 which every here complains about. I don’t even buy the reason was Palmer supporting Trump. I think it’s more likely that Zucc again couldn’t stand someone not obeying his every command and wanting to micromanage Oculus like he does with every other acquisition.

  • Foreign Devil

    I use Stadia and it’s great. Now I’m trying to find a way through virtual desktop to stream my Stadia games to my Quest 2. Unfortunately only Firefox browser streams video.. So I’ll be using a kind of streaming game in VR …but 2D.

  • AS

    Aah, so that’s why the quest 2 didn’t get wireless PC link capabilities

  • Rudl Za Vedno

    It’s one thing to stream game via Wifi from your local PC to the headset at up to 1500 mbits and totally different to get stream via G5 signal, dependent on your mobile IPS (and even that doesn’t work all that great latency wise). Cloud based VR gaming is years if not decades away.

    • Ideally we need a high bandwidth wireless adapter kit for PCVR (to support Index and reverb G2)

      Local processing on PC works great, just need to eliminate that pesky tether. Once supply stabilises, RTX3080 will give users high-end compute power at affordable price.