When Sony unveiled Project Morpheus at GDC 2014 last week, it had one primary effect beyond buzz in gaming communities. It legitimized the desire for gaming to expand beyond gimmicky 3D presentations that require special TVs and glasses to enjoy to a fully immersive 3D experience. A major force in gaming was now behind the notion that virtual reality could actually be the future. Oculus Rift had up until now, continued to impress early adopters and people seemed hopeful that the Rift would pioneer virtual reality and bring it to mass market.
Then Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had acquired Oculus VR for a deal worth around $2 billion in cash and stock. The gaming community exploded at this news. People on reddit and NeoGAF couldn’t believe the news at first. Many called it fake, before the official post announcing the acquisition went up on the Oculus VR blog. After that, many gamers lamented that Oculus VR was dead. Perhaps some game developers feel the same way, since Minecraft’s famous creator Markus “Notch” Persson announced on Twitter that they would cease developing a Rift-compatible version of Minecraft for the product. Persson didn’t want to do business with a Facebook owned company, calling it “creepy.”
We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.
— Markus Persson (@notch) March 25, 2014
This deal specifically lets us greatly lower the price of the Rift.
While that’s well and good for those who want to purchase the product once it’s ready, many are still worried about the impact that Facebook will have on the development. Cries of having to sign in using a Facebook ID and be served targeted advertisements have gone up, which Luckey denies as well. One redditor begged Luckey to confirm that there would be no tie-in to Facebook accounts. This was Luckey’s reply:
I promise. Why would we want to sell to someone like MS or Apple? So they can tear the company apart and use the pieces to build out their own vision of virtual reality, one that fits whatever current strategy they have? Not a chance.
While Luckey seems to hold bright the future of Oculus Rift, saying this deal with Facebook allowed them the necessary capital to continue expansion and build a product that doesn’t rely on mobile phone scraps, many gamers are a lot more jaded. It’s for this reason that Sony’s Project Morpheus could become the front and center for many gamer’s hopes when it comes to VR.
You’re Our Only Hope, Sony
Marketing for the PlayStation 4 focused on games, while marketing for the Xbox One focused on Microsoft’s desire to put an all-in-one entertainment box in every living room in America. TV was a prime focus and something Sony never mentioned once. Ultimately, this strategy of wait-and-see worked out well, as the PlayStation 4 continues to lead in sales worldwide and in some regions, outsells the Xbox One as much as 2 to 1.
That same strategy could lead to Sony’s Project Morpheus gaining front and center when it comes to those interested in virtual reality. With Sony’s showcase at GDC you can bet Microsoft stood at attention. Nintendo likely took note of the new development as well, but with Oculus VR firmly in the hands of Facebook, competition to enter the VR space will be more fierce than ever before. Expect announcements about VR from Microsoft at E3. Expect Sony to continue to watch development and see what they can offer in their product that doesn’t cause gamers to outrage.
While the Oculus Rift was primarily a PC-targeted platform, if Sony manages to release an SDK and hardware development kit that can be designed to work with any architecture and not just Sony’s proprietary PlayStation 4, they could quickly become the lead in the virtual reality race.