Facebook Buys Oculus Rift for $2 Billion
Facebook bought the Oculus Rift VR company for a cool $2 billion today. With that came a few immediate and visceral reactions, the most prominent being, "Facebook ruins everything!" which isn't entirely untrue.
However, the purchase could be beneficial, and just might spur the right amount of competition we so badly need.
Think of it this way; Facebook has never been particularly shy about wanting to be the dominant player in the IM market. Their recent purchase of WhatsApp only served to further that notion. With Oculus, Facebook can do three things. The first is step away from their Zynga days of casual, social gaming, and make their first steps into real, console level gaming. No longer will you just have trophies and achievements to unlock and compete against - gaming will happen with real-time news feed updates. And this will only be possible if Facebook forces the player to login in through Facebook in order to connect and communicate with other gamers.
The second is taking the IM idea one step further. Facebook Messenger is already cross-platform, so having it extend into the world of VR gaming seems like a natural extension. Imagine Chat Heads inside games. You won't have to pause, find the message, respond, and then unpause. Chat Heads would work in game as they do on our mobile devices. Forcing players to use Facebook Messenger would be similar to Google forcing it's Google+ service into every Google application.
The third and final, and what I think is the most interesting idea, is that Facebook could take the Oculus Rift VR technology and turn it into a Google Glass competitor. Right now, in the new wearable market, Google has the strongest, and only, foothold on glass-type wearables. The Oculus could provide Facebook with enough traction to push out the perfect Facebook hardware. Facebook has never had a successful smartphone, but they just might work out in the wearables. Imagine Facebook Home, but through glass. It would essentially be the spiritual successor to the augmented reality app, Layar, and once again, would have deep Facebook Messenger integration built right into it.
There is a flip-side to this, and that's Facebook is dipping it's resources into too many different fields without really perfecting any of them. Their design aesthetic is constantly changing, and many of the products are revealed, quickly adopted, and just as quickly abandoned. That, and games could be so inundated with ads, that the platform is dropped entirely as players leave in droves.
Facebook could be going the way of Apple in the 90s, before Jobs took the helm again, and MySpace in the mid 00s. Unless Facebook is able to make this $2 Billion purchase work out for them, we might not have a viable future of VR.
While I don't trust Facebook with any of my personal information, the social giant is trying to expand in a way not to dissimilar to Google, and the acquisition of Oculus Rift is a step into huge new territory for them.