The Facebook buyout of Oculus, creators of that particularly ugly piece of virtual reality headgear, has received some pretty mixed reactions.
Some people are baffled, some people are upset, and some people have torn the clothes from their body and thrown aside all earthly possessions. People from all those groups are wondering what this means for the Oculus Rift.
What I’m wondering, however, is if Mark Zuckerberg is in for an astonishingly brutal case of buyer’s remorse – about 2 billion dollars’ worth.
Do we actually want it?
Here’s the thing – I’m not sure Oculus Rift is all that good.
Don’t get me wrong, from what I’ve seen of it (and full disclosure, I’ve never actually used the thing), it looks really cool. It looks like a great piece of hardware. It looks like innovation, something sorely needed in the gaming industry. It also looks like a gimmick.
And I’m just not sure I want one. Or, for that matter, if anyone else will.
I’ve seen the videos of people freaking out and loving it, and I think I’d giggle like a schoolgirl if I could use one for just five minutes. But that’s the thing about new technology, especially tech like the Rift which messes with the way you perceive things – it’s exciting, it’s different and it feels amazing.
It’s like being on a rollercoaster or going on one of those virtual reality amusement park rides – they’re really really fun, and really exhilarating – but I sure as hell don’t want to do it for two hours. Hell, I don’t want to do it for twenty minutes. The reason it’s fun is because we don’t have constant access to it. Would you want to take a rollercoaster to work every day?
Everybody had a helluva lot more faith in 3D televisions, and those, to my mind, have failed spectacularly. How often do you go to a friend’s house and slap on a pair of 3D glasses to watch that My Little Pony Blu-Ray?
Chances are, you don’t. Not many people do, because people just want to relax and watch television, they don’t want to don some kind of awkward headgear and have everything else in the room look fuzzy.
And from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t get much more awkward than the Rift. I’m not sure what the design plan is for future models, but I think after an hour of having those enormous goggles strapped to your head you’ll be reaching for the Deep Heat.
It’s just so… exclusive. I can’t sit and chat to my friends (without feeling like an absolute knob) while I’m playing games. I can’t sneak in a quick round of Call of Duty and chat to my wife while she’s making dinner.
I can’t just collapse on my couch in whatever position I like and gun down the elderly in GTA V. I have to sit, put on my giant Facebook goggles, shut out the rest of the world and game.
I’ve mentioned this before, but historically gamers just don’t like people messing with the way they play games. The basic, golden standard of a screen and a controller has been tried, trusted and true since forever, and most deviations from that have not ended well.
With the short-lived exception of the Wii, people just have not bought into motion controls. We all thought it was going to be ridiculously badass to have lightsaber fights in front of our televisions when stuff like the Kinect was first marketed – remember that? Remember all those amazing things we were going to be able to do? How about those big electronic gloves you could put on? Hey, remember the Virtua Boy? Or even the Wii U’s tablet controller?
All of these things have failed. Even the Xbox One Kinect is used as a voice-controlled remote control for your console and television more than anything else.
We’ve been here before. We’ve seen some new, exciting, completely different thing that’s going to revolutionise the way we play games – and then we don’t buy it. We don’t want it. We’re lazy, we’re stuck in our ways and all we really want is a badass new game for our controller and screen setup.
People REALLY don’t like Facebook
I find this kind of hilarious. Everyone seems to hate the social network giant, and yet everyone uses it.
Do you know how it got this big? Because of you (okay, and me). The people going on a rant about Facebook in their strongly-worded forum post probably have the site open in another tab. It’s ridiculous.
Anyway, I digress. What I’m trying to say is that Facebook isn’t exactly the darling of hardcore game developers, or hardcore gamers. Minecraft-man Notch has already publicly pulled out, and you have to wonder if it’s just a matter of time before others follow suit.
People just don’t really trust Facebook, it has the stink of greedy corporate about it and you can’t help but feel like the second you put those goggles on it’s going to stare deep into your soul and figure out how best to tailor advertising for your particularly pervy needs.
The biggest problem here for Oculus specifically is that there are competitors without that marketing money stench. We’ve already seen Sony’s Project Morpheus emerge, amongst others – it’s pretty easy to imagine developers simply jumping ship at this point.
Of course, my own personal doubt doesn’t lie with Oculus or Facebook, but with the concept itself.
The Oculus Rift is a cool and innovative product, and I have nothing but respect for all the people behind it.
However, it’s not the first time we’ve seen something cool and innovative, and history points to gamers not liking change – not at all.
There’s a good chance the Rift (and the VR headset in general) becomes just another gimmick piece of hardware that gets pulled out at parties, and not the new standard of gaming.