In shock news it's just been revealed via Press Release that social media giant Facebook Inc. has purchased nascent Virtual Reality headset developer and manufacturer Oculus VR, known primarily for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and continued development in that field.
"Mobile is the platform of today, and now we're also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow," stated Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate."
The deal is worth a total of $2bn, $400m in cash and 23.1 million shares valued at $1.6bn. Further incentives worth an estimated $300m are also to be made available to Oculus VR if they reach key milestones in a timely fashion. This is by far the largest investment made into the company since its inception in 2012, and dwarfs the $2.4m raised via Kickstarter two years ago.
For his part Brendan Iribe, co-founder and CEO of Oculus, said: "We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it's only just the beginning."
Facebook claim they are seeking to accelerate Oculus's growth in the gaming space, and a cash injection would certainly go some way into achieving that goal. However, with production still constrained and platform developers few and far between, there's still some time before the device will reach consumer hands even were the market potential to be proven.
The move may be with an eye towards Google's Glass project, despite the disparities in the two technologies. Glass is increasingly popular amongst the tech-savvy testers and has enormous potential as a content and context-based-advertisement delivery system, quite possibly crowding out the likes of Facebook. They've also been on something of a spending spree having bought messaging service WhatsApp last month in a deal worth $19bn, joining a long list of acquisitions that includes Instagram and other online brands.
Whilst Facebook is an immensely popular gaming platform in the free-to-play arena this would be their first foray into actual development in the Rift's primary market. Unsurprisingly however gamers have reacted with dismay, in part due to the visceral reaction against Facebook as a gaming platform and the company's changeable attitude towards privacy. The backlash is already bearing bitter fruit, with Mojang announcing via Markus "notch" Persson's Twitter feed that they would be cancelling a planned port of Minecraft to the platform.
It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and in that vein VR evangelists already have a new champion in the form of Sony's Project Morpheus VR, which was announced at GDC only last week. It remains to be seen just what impact today's events will have on the long term future of the technology.
Source: VIA Press Release