I expect my reaction to Facebook’s Oculus VR acquisition was just as dumbfounded as yours. But more than anything, it annoyed me. It annoyed me because, as an early advocate of Oculus Rift, I’ve watched a Kickstarter success evolve into a thriving passion project that has the potential to change the way we game.
And it just handed itself over to a data-chomping, Farmville-loving conglomerate before even getting off the ground.
But this isn’t just about Facebook and Oculus. It feels like it’s becoming rarer to see promising smaller players evolve into something much bigger without being snapped up by a Goliath first.
Nest and Google. Instagram and Facebook. Nokia and Microsoft. Oh yeah, and Facebook and Whatsapp.
Nothing is sacred. Everything is an asset waiting to be scooped up and it’s going to get more aggressive as we phase out of a recession.
I don’t want to live in a world where Google, Apple and Facebook need to own everything. Nest had the potential to be huge as an independent entity, as did Oculus. Imagine how many more $ each could have had to their name in a few years time had they gone it alone. They’d also be very different companies.
Buy, buy, buy
But it’s also bad news for the competition. Facebook has just made a reasonably level playing field pretty uneven, meaning it may now be a lot more difficult for other VR companies to jump in (Sony’s Project Morpheus possibly less so, given that it’s built solely for the PS4). Just look at Spotify’s purchase of The Echo Nest and the ramifications that’s already having for Rdio and other music services.
And the more it happens, the more people get paranoid about these big companies eating, processing and spitting out their data to third parties. People have become skeptical of Facebook’s respect for privacy and now Oculus stands in that shadow. It’s a shame.
Is Oculus still the virtual reality saviour for the gamers? Oculus says the day-to-day activities won’t change; I can’t help but question its independence in the long run but I hope I’m wrong.
In the conference call yesterday, Zuckerberg described Whatsapp and Oculus as "rare" entities. He’s right, and that only makes watching these acquisitions all the more disheartening.
I want to see these rarities grow into their own. Otherwise everything becomes so much less exciting.
- Still, Oculus is a great piece of kit, and here’s why