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What Facebook's Oculus Rift buy means for PC gamers

Hayden Dingman | March 28, 2014
Oculus Rift's $2 billion sellout could mean some very good things for PC gaming, or very bad things for VR aficionados.

"Oculus already has big plans [for gaming] that won't be changing and we hope to accelerate," wrote Zuckerberg. "Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this." It's essentially the same line Zuckerberg used after purchasing Instagram and WhatsApp.

The bad
But let's not kid ourselves: There's a huge backlash against this deal for a reason. Despite the fact that Facebook still reigns as the largest social network, it's more from lock-in and a lack of options at this point than any real fondness for Zuckerberg and Co. To be honest, it hurts the heart to see Facebook, the faceless corporation, buy out a company as passionate and community-friendly as Oculus.

The deal is only a day old, as far as the public is concerned, so anything listed in this section is just a possibility, not a certainty. With that said, here's the major negatives that could come crawling out of the acquisition.

Facebook's history of privacy issues, data-mining, and ad-ridden content
Here's a big one: Why don't people like Facebook? Maybe because Facebook doesn't respect them. Facebook's privacy settings are a mess, they've shown a reckless disregard toward even allowing you any semblance of privacy, and it's all headed up by a person who has repeatedly stuck his foot in his mouth when discussing these very same issues.

On top of that, there's the whole "If you're not buying the product, you are the product" philosophy—Facebook data-mines your info and sells it wholesale to advertisers. What kind of ad-integration (if any) will we see on the Rift? What kind of data will Facebook take away from our play-sessions?

It all sounds so tin-foil hat, and yet considering Facebook's history, it's not surprising people are worried.

Loss of community support
Within minutes of the announcement, the Oculus community went into full Internet-riot mode. The community, both consumers and developers, are deeply unhappy.

Markus "Notch" Persson already announced he's canceling a planned Oculus version of Minecraft because Facebook is "creepy," and a number of other developers spewed similar sentiments on Twitter. In these early days of virtual reality, Oculus has thrived in large part because of its developer support. So many people have been making demos for the Rift for free, just to experiment and help contribute to the start of a new medium. If developers abandon the Rift in droves for a competitor, that's a huge problem for Oculus.

Similarly, if Oculus can't win back the gaming community, it has just as big of an issue. There's a healthy portion of that community that just hates Facebook on principle.

A smaller subset feels betrayed because they contributed to Oculus via Kickstarter and now don't like the way the company is headed. My fellow writer Brad Chacos thinks the Kickstarter campaign was actually a success: It allowed Oculus to turn an amazing, but untested product into a reality when nobody else was willing to take the chance. But the community feels it put dollars down and Oculus violated some unspoken "spirit of Kickstarter" with this acquisition.

 

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