Facebook plans to purchase Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for $2 billion. The deal is comprised of $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook stock. Facebook announced its surprise purchase via a blog post. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also revealed Facebook's reasons for the deal. "Oculus's mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences," Zuckerberg says. "Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won't be changing and we hope to accelerate."
Zuckerberg says that Facebook will "focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games." But he makes clear that after Oculus sees through its gaming ambitions, Facebook will expand the product into new territory. "We're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home." Zuckerberg equates Oculus to "a new communication platform" and clearly has a vision that extends far beyond the gaming focus that helped Oculus become a smash Kickstarter success.
"Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures."
The acquisition of Oculus seemingly comes out of nowhere: the company just demoed its most recent version of the Oculus Rift development kit at GDC 2014 to much fanfare. Oculus has been steadily moving towards a consumer product, and Facebook's resources can only help to push that mission along. "Facebook understands the potential for VR," the Oculus team wrote in its own blog post announcing the deal. "Mark and his team share our vision for virtual reality’s potential to transform the way we learn, share, play, and communicate. Facebook is a company that believes that anything is possible with the right group of people, and we couldn’t agree more."
But the most interesting question, as Zuckerberg lays out, is where the technology will go in the future. "By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures." Zuckerberg says that future is coming sooner than anyone thinks, and he "can't wait to start working with the whole team at Oculus to bring this future to the world, and to unlock new worlds for all of us."
Update: In a posting on Reddit, Oculus inventor Palmer Luckey said "we won't let you down," adding that Facebook "aligned" with the company's own culture:
In the end, I kept coming back to a question we always ask ourselves every day at Oculus: what's best for the future of virtual reality? Partnering with Mark and the Facebook team is a unique and powerful opportunity. The partnership accelerates our vision, allows us to execute on some of our most creative ideas and take risks that were otherwise impossible. Most importantly, it means a better Oculus Rift with fewer compromises even faster than we anticipated.
Separately, Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony Worldwide Studios, said he did not see the announcement coming, despite the fact that it was within just a week of the company announcing its own VR headset program codenamed Project Morpheus.
Update 2: John Carmack of Id Software fame, who joined on to become Oculus' CTO this past August, says the Facebook deal will keep virtual reality from suffering scaling issues:
For the record, I am coding right now, just like I was last week.I expect the FB deal will avoid several embarrassing scaling crisis for VR.— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) March 26, 2014