Facebook / Oculus VR Acquisition: Investor Webcast Highlights
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”.
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”
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.
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.