Facebook / Oculus VR Acquisition: Investor Webcast Highlights

Mark Zuckerberg

So, while we were still reeling from Mark Zuckerberg‘s announcement on his own personal Facebook page of their intentions to acquire Oculus for a cool $2 billion dollars, the official press release landed. In that, everyone holding an interest in the deal should pop along via phone or webcast to hear Mark Zuckerberg and Brendan Iribe (amongst others) explain why this deal is in the offing and what their vision is for the collaboration. I grabbed some notes during the conference that seemed of interest and break them down with some thoughts below. These are not direct quotes, but paraphrased statements based on notes I took during the webcast.

Zuckerberg: “We see Oculus as providing one of the long term important Computing Platforms for the future”.

Brendan Iribe, CEO, Oculus VR

The term ‘Computing Platforms’ featured heavily throughout the event. In fact, it was interesting how both Brendan and Zuckerberg were very careful not to paint Oculus as providers of just a pure gaming experience, which of course they’re not. It was clear that the phrases used were designed not to put off the types of people who have and care about the money they have tied up in Facebook. Instead, much emphasis was made of VR’s power to connect people socially in ways hitherto only experienced when those people shared a physical space.

Iribe: “When the Facebook team came to visit and meet with us, we quickly realised that our teams were culturally aligned, we hire the best and brightest”

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Again, Oculus’ ability to attract and attain industry leading people to help build the future of VR was highlighted as a key reason for the acquisition. It’s clear Facebook believe that in acquiring Oculus they adopt a ready-made dream team of technologists poised to change the world. In fact, it was put more bluntly later on ..

Zuckerberg: “Oculus are way ahead of everyone … 1 year ahead of the competition”.

Kinda felt like they’d wandered down the “Pre-packaged Technology Company With Bright Future” aisle at the Billion Dollar Best Buy and picked up the shinest product they saw.

Iribe: “We’re thrilled that we’ll be working together.” .. “We believe VR will connect people in ways  nobody thought possible”  “..fundamentally change the way we live, share and communicate”

Again, the focus is predictably on social and lifestyle aspects of VR. But this is nothing new, the VR community has been aware of the huge leaps VR could provide to telepresence applications and all those related. It is a stark shift in focus from the previous 2 years of talking up Oculus’ gaming potential. Again, presenting what Oculus can bring to Facebook is the key here as well as not frightening those non tech-savvy millionaire investors.

In truth, there really is an enormous opportunity for both companies to seize their collective resources and push the boundaries of virtual reality in ways that simply wouldn’t have been possible without  such a partnership in place. Whilst many may hold reservations about big business snapping up our favourite plucky upstart underdog, Facebook’s financial clout really does open some pretty huge doors for VR.

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Zuckerberg: “We’re not a hardware company and we’re not looking to make a profit from Oculus hardware, we see this as more a software and services thing.” .. “Gaming is a start”

This was interesting and on the surface,  flies in the face of the public’s view of Oculus, that of a company producing a VR Headset for mass market gaming. However, what Oculus has clearly believed since the beginning is that the Oculus Rift is not just a peripheral or even a display, it’s a platform on which to build great software. Oculus themselves have already made great inroads into carving themselves a software and services niche. In the creation of Oculus Share, they curated the best software developers had to offer them and promoted it to build awareness of the platform and what it had to offer. Recently, Oculus VR announced that they’d be publishing software too, starting with the darling of the VR gaming world, EVE Valkyrie.

So, it’s clear Facebook’s vision for generating revenue from the acquisition aligns broadly with Oculus’ current trajectory anyway. Basically, creating the Rift is a means to an end. The end, is to sell the world awesome VR related software and services. But for those hardcore gamers who are member of the community that has built since the Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign began, hearing the marginalisation of gaming may well sadden them somewhat.

Here at Road to VR we always believed that virtual reality had a huge future. We’ve watched and reported on the community that has been built around Oculus’ successes. The last 2 years have been a sort of wild west period of lawlessness for VR, and one that many will be sad to see the back of. But, if enthusiasts really do want to see and experience the pinnacle of what their chosen hobby has to offer, Facebook’s move could well provide the hefty push that VR needs to achieve launch velocity. As sad as I am to see the Wild West being tamed, I’m pretty excited about where Oculus and now Facebook might take us next.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • Chris Given

    Soon everyone will be shopping online and I predict there will be more jobs in VR then in the RW… I think future shop for example will save money having no physical stores by moving into VR… They hire real people to sell product in their virtual store and it gets shipped right to your door… That will probably make cryptocurrencies more popular too like Worldcoin for instance… The more I think about it this is probably one of the best things that could have happened to VR and Oculus!! Time will tell but I for one am excited about this and I am still very happy that I purchased the Dk2!!

  • monographix

    That is not very good news. Social portals are bound to live for a relatively short time only – it’s simple sociology and psychology – and this whole deal feels more like Facebook bought a lifeline that will support it’s life cycle. No, even worse, it reminds me of buying a child to adopt it into family and prolong its longevity. In the next few years Facebook will evolve into something completely different than it is now, split or just die. I only pray it won’t take OR down with it.

    On the other side, the sudden tons of cash mean that we are very likely to see CV sooner than later. I hope that Oculus will manage to stay independent when it comes to hardware and at least at some part software design.

    The most ironic thing though is that people from Kickstarter who basically funded Oculus, would now be shareholders of 2 billion dollar company if not for this sly business model that puts all the risk on them and gives literally nothing more than one or two pieces of equipment. That is just sad.

    Aside from my rant though, I wonder in what position does it put Valve now?

  • JuneJune

    Hi, I only have one question

    Do you think it will keep on being an open source device?

    • Mageoftheyear

      From Palmer on reddit…
      “We promise we won’t change. If anything, our hardware and software will get even more open, and Facebook is onboard with that.”

      • JuneJune

        Thank you very much!

  • Mageoftheyear

    That last paragraph: very well put Paul.
    Palmer’s responses in reddit clearly reinforce that gaming is still a major focus in their plans, in fact even more so than before thanks to the infusion allowing them to properly develop their publishing division.

    Quote from Palmer:
    “This deal will definitely make things better. You are right, we have struggled to properly support indie devs because we had to focus our limited resources on our closest partners, that has been a failing that I want to fix. Indie developers are the ones driving this VR revolution more than anyone else, and one of my personal goals has been to support them in a much stronger way.

    Our developer relations/publishing team is really small right now, just a few guys. That is one of the reasons Oculus Share applications have taken so long, they get backed up behind the hundreds of developers we talk to every day.

    If anyone reading this is an indie developer who has a problem getting a response, email me at palmer@oculusvr.com and I will make sure things get moving.


  • Curtrock

    And to think that just earlier this afternoon I was frustrated about Sony jumping onto the VR train that Oculus and Valve created….worried that Sony might push Oculus out of the game…..pissed off that Oculus and our Dev community did all the testing and experimenting to find out what worked and what gave us simulator sickness…didn’t seem right that Sony could just jump on in…..and now, this…. WOW!

    Congrats, Oculus! Couldn’t be happier about this. If there is one company that has the resources to counter the mega-bucks and control that Sony has over the entertainment world, it’s Facebook. Now, it seems our VR future is assured. Much happier with AMERICAN companies in control of this new frontier! Pop the champaign bottles, boys, this is time to celebrate! :) hell ya!

    • Joe Nickence

      Hmm, interesting outlook. I never considered this,perspective, myself. Thanks for posting it.

    • Tim Suetens

      Hate to burst your bubble, Mr. American, but Sony has been working on tech like this for years…

    • deadering

      People like this sicken me…

      I personally wish the best to Sony and Oculus. Unlike racist and closed minded people I like to see several options available and to see how each company will develop differently.

  • Ryan

    Thanks for the great article.

  • Curtrock

    FYI, I’m not American, I’m Canadian. If Sony has been working on this tech for years, they have certainly kept it quiet, unless you count the HMZ pieces of over-priced crap. Either way, they certainly weren’t trying to foster a thriving open community, like Oculus has. And yes, I like the idea of VR being spearheaded by American companies like Oculus & Facebook. Sony is an old company, beholden to generations of patronage. FB/Oculus are new, young, and bring a more modern world perspective, which I prefer.