Excuse the swearing, but the most exciting thing happening in gaming has just been bought out by a social network.
Facebook paid two billion dollars for Oculus VR, the company that has been developing the Rift. It’s a personal virtual reality headset that has been making some serious waves in the gaming community over the last year due to the sheer measure of its possibilities. Resolution has been growing and movement latency (always a problem with previous headsets) has been reduced to a point where this thing is actually a viable device. The demos have left journalists wowed and enthusiastic about the dramatic forward step in gaming that it could herald.
Its acquisition by Zuckerberg’s empire, however, is not one that will encourage many that this pioneering spirit will continue. Facebook’s prime motivation is clear – join all the people, all the time, with as lower a barrier to entry as possible. So, judging by the gaming content already on the network, this will lead to social games with a high stress on interaction and the inevitable inclusion of in-app purchases. So, pretty much the opposite of what has been shown so far on the device. Sigh.
Of course, Facebook could surprise us all and continue the Rift’s focus on in-depth PC games, but it’s just not going to happen. The Oculus payout includes an additional sum if the company “meets certain milestones”. There’s not much doubt that this beautiful device, one that has so much scope, is going social. In fact, following yesterday’s announcement, Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson said that the deal to bring his game to the Rift had immediately been cancelled. “Facebook creeps me out” he tweeted, and in a later blog post said “I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.” Quite.
One great thing to come out of the Rift story is that it has pushed other companies to follow the trail of interest, most notably shown by Sony’s reveal of Project Morpheus, a VR headset coming out for PS4 next year. This is probably going to be at the forefront of VR gaming now, which is great news for fans of the Japanese company’s varied gaming output.
However, for the PC gaming community that had been frothing at the mouth with the prospect of true VR, this is terrible news. The device will probably still have a hardcore of modders who will hack Rift functionality into their favourite games, but it now won’t have the level of support – or complexity – that had been touted.