Recently we all found out a bit of news that was likely shocking to most, though whether or not it was shocking in a good way left many uncertain. Facebook bought Oculus VR
, the company that makes the Oculus Rift head-mounted display, in a deal valued at $2 billion in a combination of cash and stock, and the speculation promptly started. I was in on that speculation myself, and the first thing I said was that this was probably going to be good news after all.
Naturally, there's only one way to find out just how this will all turn out, but I say the news is good indeed. Now, it's easy to see why there would be concern; after all, Facebook has fairly minimal contact with video gaming
, and the contact it has had might best be described as “superficial.” Games like “Farmville” and “Mafia Wars”, after all, don't exactly need the hottest processors and huge monitors to adequately display them, so Facebook isn't exactly the top choice to know gamers' concerns or respond to them accordingly.
But Facebook has a significant interest in developing its own fortunes. After all, Facebook has a lot of investors to keep happy ever since its IPO emerged, and these investors want results. It doesn't particularly matter where, so long as said results bring in cash along with them. Facebook's primary stock in trade before was huge numbers of individuals on hand to advertise to, and advertisers commonly responded well to the opportunity that was a whole lot of users in one place that could be readily advertised to. But Facebook taking a new tack into hardware, now, this is different, and likely to prove welcome. Should one end suddenly lag, Facebook would have a separate business to fall back on, and one that only occasionally overlaps with its current demographic targets. That's a nice stroke of diversification, and one that gives Facebook a little extra resiliency.
Beyond that, however, the Oculus Rift has more applications than just gaming. We knew that much from the word go, the idea that this display that makes our video games supremely immersive might make our movies likewise. But Facebook's also noticing the communications applications, the idea that a user could sit down in his or her living room, slip on the head-mounted display, and be courtside at an NBA game, or in the doctor's office, or at a museum. Couple these on to several communications developments like telepresence and Web-based real time communications (WebRTC
) and the end result is one that's got a lot of room to run for Facebook. But by like token, that means Facebook has to make the Oculus Rift a fully-functional platform, and that's good news for gamers.
Anything that makes the Oculus Rift better is good news. It not only makes a better product to be used with games, but with everything else as well. Facebook's deep pockets are more than sufficient to fuel development, and the Oculus Rift needs development more than anything else to ensure that the resolution and the ease of use are in place to make this system the powerhouse it could be. There's quite a bit yet for the Oculus Rift to do before it can become the platform of tomorrow, but with Facebook to push it along, it may well get there, and sooner than we expected.