Editorial: Does Facebook-Oculus even need to be liked?

Editorial: Does Facebook-Oculus even need to be liked?

Facebook-Oculus have made unpopular decision after unpopular decision since August, and have courted controversy every step of the way. But does it really matter?

Just because its release was shrouded in controversy, doesn't mean the Oculus Quest 2 hasn't been a huge success. (Credit: Jim Wilson, The New York Times)

Writing in Gizmodo this week, Sam Rutherford claimed that "the biggest fears about Facebook's acquisition of Oculus are coming true." The thesis was simple: Facebook's acquisition of Oculus had been tolerated by Oculus' userbase because they were convinced that it wouldn't be turned into a Facebook colony.

Today, Oculus fans are disappointed.

Since August, the run-up to the Oculus Quest 2 release has seen Facebook make unpopular decision after unpopular decision, courting controversy every step of the way. You'd almost think they don't care about the good will of their userbase.

It's easy to forget, but Facebook first purchased Oculus all the way back in 2014 - that's a whole two years before the Oculus Rift was first released. Almost immediately, Oculus executives - including Founder Palmer Luckey - have been assuring their userbase that they would not need a Facebook account in order to use their headsets. So much for that.

That being said, lots of people immediately refused to believe these assurances. Writing on Reddit in August, Luckey admitted his own naivety.

I want to make clear that those promises were approved by Facebook in that moment and on an ongoing basis, and I really believed it would continue to be the case for a variety of reasons. In hindsight, the downvotes from people with more real-world experience than me were definitely justified.
Rumours circulated that Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey was fired due to his openly right-wing political leanings. During Senate hearings in 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied these rumours. (Credit: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle)

His critics were right. Since the announcement in August, Facebook have felt harsh criticism for implementing their account requirement. Facebook was forced to halt distribution of Quest and Rift units in Germany amid a row around the new rule. The U.S. House of Representatives has even suggested that the policy may constitute the creation of an illegal monopoly.

Where they once made sure to pacify the Oculus userbase, Facebook now don't pay so much attention.

As a result, affection for Oculus in the VR world is quickly draining. Many who first supported Oculus saw it as the independent future of VR. Now, that future is blue and decorated with a large lower-case 'f.' The result was predicted by many: widespread resentment.

But does Facebook even need to be liked? Sadly, the answer is probably not.

They aren't planning on stopping with mandating the use of Facebook accounts. Many Oculus fans were contempt with Facebook's acquisition because they were assured that Oculus and Facebook would remain vaguely separate entities. Now, the future is squarely with Facebook-Oculus - emphasis on the Facebook.

Facebook is going to use it's power to bring Oculus into the mainstream. The casual, social-media mainstream, that is. They can do this easily, without needing to court the affection of the VR world.

And with the move, expect more data intrusion, more social media integration, more restrictive Facebook policies and less control over the company that was, once upon a time, completely crowd-funded.

Facebook doesn't need crowd-funding. Facebook doesn't even need good will. Facebook already has everything it needs to transform VR, and it's hard to see any reason why they would change course.


Liam Noble Shearer

I am a VR reporter and commentator based in the far North of Scotland. I focus primarily on industry news & new releases, as well as writing editorials and reviews. Likes coffee, dislikes parsnips.

Scotland http://www.liamnshearer.com Liam Noble Shearer

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