The best thing about this industry is its ability to surprise every single day – but even we feel like we’ve been sucked into an alternate reality this evening. In case you haven’t heard the show stopping news coming out of the United States today, Facebook has purchased Oculus Rift for an eye-watering $2 billion in cash and shares. Just let that little tidbit seep into your accessory obscured eyes for a couple of seconds. Facebook has purchased Oculus Rift.
You’re reading a PlayStation site, so you may be wondering why we’re even bothering to cover this bizarre turn of events. Well, it has implications on the PlayStation 4, primarily because Sony stepped into the virtual reality space itself approximately a week ago with Project Morpheus. Of course, the first-party accessory had been rumoured for some time, but the platform holder opted to employ the Game Developers Conference to reveal its own vision of the future of games.
While the firm stressed that it was open to working with the creators of the Oculus Rift to build a quality future for virtual reality, there had been some discussion about whether the devices could co-exist. At the time, Project Morpheus had the advantage of a colossal electronics company and a gigantic brand to back its vision, while its competitor had the experience of a dream team of developers and an ever evolving target platform.
Those details haven’t exactly changed with today’s acquisition, but the circumstances certainly have. Facebook overlord Mark Zuckerberg stressed in an open letter that the Oculus Rift will continue to operate independently, and will turn its attention to “immersive gaming [...] first”. However, it’s clear that that original premise is going to represent a small portion of the product’s future plans, with new communication possibilities clearly the long-term goal.
“After games, we're going to make Oculus Rift a platform for many other experiences,” he wrote on his personal profile. “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home. This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life.”
Sony touched upon some of this during its Project Morpheus presentation, but ultimately concluded that games are at the heart of its vision for now. “At this time we're focused on PlayStation,” said senior engineer Anton Mikhailov in an interview with Eurogamer.net. However, he added that those wider implementations discussed by Zuckerberg have the potential to drive virtual reality’s adoption.
So, back to the question that we started with: what does all of this mean for the PS4’s recently announced peripheral? Well, there have been a lot of knee jerk reactions online already – an Oculus Rift edition of Minecraft was announced and cancelled in a single tweet – but the honest answer is that it’s too early to say. Only one thing's for sure: the big fish little fish metaphor pertaining to the two products has been turned on its head – and make no mistake, Sony is the minnow this time around.
However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The major point that we have taken away from today’s news is that virtual reality is now most definitely a thing, and Sony’s expansion into the space seems almost validated by this move. Exactly whether it can – or, indeed, needs to – compete with the freshly acquired Oculus Rift will all depend on Facebook’s long-term plans for the format. We’ll be watching closely with a goggle enhanced gaze.
What do you make of Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift? Do you think that this is good news or bad news for Project Morpheus? Strap yourself in courtesy of the comments section below.