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26 Mar 2014

What Indie Devs Need to Know About Facebook’s Big Purchase

By now, you have undoubtedly heard that Facebook purchased Oculus Rift for a whopping $2 billion. A mutual agreement between the two companies, it has left many with a bad taste in their mouths. It’s understandable – especially for those that funded the Oculus Rift’s Kickstarter campaign and have followed its progress ever since. The Oculus Rift is one of the most exciting technologies to blossom in years, and the fact that it was crowdfunded – a technology essentially ‘for the people, funded by the people’ – only to be purchased by Facebook has left feelings of betrayal among many. Again, it’s understandable, but it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, I would dare say that Facebook’s purchase of the Oculus Rift may be a positive step.

The idea of Oculus Rift changing the world while being 100% independent was an awesome idea. Even so, this is a powerful technology they’re sitting on: one that, if implemented correctly, will be ‘world changing.’ Not industry changing, but world changing – in the same way the iPhone ushered in an era of truly powerful smartphones. As a result, they needed someone with big pockets (and if not now, then later). Thus, enter Facebook.

Yet, I think Facebook buying Oculus Rift could be a good thing for indie developers and of course, players. Here is why indie developers (and ultimately, players) should take a deep breath and look at this situation optimistically.

 

That’s a load of cash!

The biggest positive to Facebook buying Oculus Rift is of course Oculus Rift’s $2 billion price tag. Oculus Rift received approximately $2,437,429 in funding by the end of their Kickstarter campaign. That’s a lot of scratch to be certain, and it has supported the project quite well since the funding. But now? They have $2 billion! This level of cash will allow Palmer and Co. to not only make breakthroughs with the Oculus Rift sooner, but they now have the funding to make their dream product. That means indie developers have the potential to develop games specifically for the Oculus Rift faster than ever.

And you know something? Facebook just bought a virtual reality company for $2 billion, meaning…

 

Virtual reality is finally here

And it’s staying. Would virtual reality have hit the mainstream if Oculus Rift remained independent? There is really no way of telling. Yet, the chances of virtual reality being a part of our everyday lives is closer to reality than ever before thanks to Facebook’s purchase. Say what you will about Facebook, but they aren’t idiots. They’re planning for tomorrow, and that future? It involves virtual reality and your virtual reality-centered games. With Facebook’s large reach, virtual reality is going to play a huge part in our lives sooner than later. That idea you have for a virtual reality indie game? The chances of it being a reality sooner has risen exponentially.

 

Competition

Many are angry that the Oculus Rift ‘sold out.’ That’s a given. Even so, with the deep pockets of Facebook behind the Oculus Rift likely resulting in a giant push forward for virtual reality becoming the norm, you are going to see more competition in the virtual reality space than ever before.

Breakthroughs are going to happen faster than ever (theoretically, of course), meaning we’re going to see several companies attempt to carve a niche for themselves in the VR industry. Sony and supposedly Valve are already hard at work on their VR products, so competition is already on its way.

What’s more? You are going to have multiple platforms to choose from during development. Want to develop your indie game for Sony’s VR headset? You will be able to do so in the foreseeable future, as you will for Valve’s headset if it becomes a reality. Competition is always a good thing, and while you may mourn the buyout of the Oculus Rift today, just remember this solidifies one thing: that virtual reality is not only going to be a ‘reality’ sooner than later, but it’s going to be here to stay.

 

Anything to fear?

Absolutely. There are a few things indie developers should be worried about with this buyout. While it’s too early to tell if any of these things will happen, they have the ability to not only harm the Oculus Rift platform, but make it difficult for indie developers to develop games for the platform:

  • Licensing issues?
    • Will there be licensing issues when developing for the Oculus Rift? It’s too early to say, but hopefully not. If Facebook opts to be a stickler with licensing out the Oculus Rift for development, this could keep many indie developers from developing for the Oculus Rift
      • Again, this could give rise to competing VR platforms.
  • VR Farmville, ‘ads in your face.’
    • Memes are circulating around the Web, spoofing that we may be playing a VR version of Farmville and other Facebook games. Critics are also saying that we should expect to see tons of ads and other annoyances in our face when using the Oculus Rift in the future.
      • Again, too early to say, but I sincerely hope we won’t be bombarded with ads flying at our faces.
      • Indie developers won’t support a platform guilty of this.
  • Killed momentum?
    • “The Facebook acquisition of Oculus seems 80% likely to kill their momentum,” says George Buckingham, a developer with the studio Die Gute Fabrik. “It’s probably going to get locked down in annoying ways and stop being a cool weird tech you can freely hack on.”
      • This quote sums up the fear of ‘killed momentum’ perfectly. If momentum is killed and it becomes a burden to develop for the platform, again, indie developers are going to leave the Oculus Rift in droves.

Again, it’s too early to say exactly what is going to happen. If there is one thing indie developers can take away from this, it’s this: interest in virtual reality is at an all-time high. Yesterday’s purchase proved that it is here to stay, and as an indie developer, you need to consider how you can use virtual reality for your future games. You may release said games on Oculus Rift, Sony’s VR headset, or another product yet to be announced, but the technology is here and it’s staying.

 

As an indie developer, what are your thoughts on Facebook purchasing the Oculus Rift? Let us know in the comments below!

1 Response

  1. We’re net-net positive on it, because we are Oculus developers and want it to support Desktop (PC/Mac) *and* Console (Xbone/PS4/etc), but by Sony having their own, this created a “Rift”. Now with this killer funding, Oculus can compete more than ever. Disclaimer: We love Sony, too.

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