The Obvious Death of Oculus Rift

I know, I know; the sensationalist title is over the top. Still, I can’t help but worry about the future of the Oculus Rift, the “next step in bringing virtual reality to gaming,” and further, the future of innovation as a whole.

If you haven’t heard by now, it was announced that Oculus VR was acquired by Facebook for an estimated $2 Billion. Unsurprisingly, the news of the acquisition sent Oculus Rift devotees, a large portion of them gamers, into a frenzy, many prophesying the oncoming death of their beloved peripheral.

My initial reaction was similar. As a gamer, I’ve become numb to acquisitions, layoffs, and video game companies folding. The video game industry is incredibly volatile and unstable. Electronic Arts (EA) acquisitions are an example of this trend. The mega video game company has made a living scooping up smaller studios and developers and wringing them dry.

The chorus of cries when EA consumes yet another victim is always the same. There’s usually a small contingent of optimists that hold out hope for a peaceful outcome. Then there’s an even smaller group that say they cannot blame the small company for taking EA’s money while they can. Then the rest are just an amalgam of anger, frustration and depression.

If you don’t follow gaming news much, you may be wondering why gamers feel this way. “Isn’t it good that a small company has gotten their ‘just due’ and made money that they worked hard for?” Well, yes, of course. Unfortunately, the small company has entered into the state of “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Here’s an example story: You, your sister, your friend, and a guy from a message board you used to moderate, have all been meeting after work and school for about a year creating a really cool concept for a video game that you had pioneered.

After the year, you realize that your idea for this game is wonderful, never before seen, but unattainable with the few people currently working on it for the few hours that they do. So you head to Kickstarter, create a quick name for your “studio,” and your game idea becomes an instant hit. Within a week, your dream project gets kickstarted, and at the end of the backing period, it has gotten three-times the amount you asked for. The hype is real, gaming blogs and sites have picked it up, and now you can start to make your dream come to fruition.

Then the problems start to mount. Even after hiring three more people, you can’t seem to get enough done. You aren’t paying your team members very much, so they have other jobs and still go to school as well. You quit school for a little bit to focus on the game, since the people who kickstarted your project have backed you with real money and are expecting a product in a reasonable timeframe.

You push back the release date, hoping to not have to eventually do the most dreaded thing in video game development: cutting out features. After the third release date push back, hope is starting to fade. You realize that the amount of money it would actually take to make this game a reality  is not attainable barring a miracle. Crawling under a rock is sounding more and more better each passing minute.

Then EA sends you an email. They say that they have been monitoring your game development and are impressed. They would love to help make your dream come to life. They understand that the costs of game development are ridiculous. So if you send them what you have so far, and they like it, they would be willing to back you.

Of course, your studio would be absorbed into the EA Family, and EA would have final say on all decisions from there on out. Mostly, they want to make sure the game is “Economically Viable.”

No one is when it comes to THEM.

Is your dream economically viable? Are you?

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If you take the offer, you know your pet project will most likely be changed to just a husk of what you saw in your dreams. The gamers, the ones who backed you in the first place, won’t see the vision that you laid out for them. Still, it would be something, and financially you can help yourself and the others on your team, a good amount too. If you don’t take the offer, well, you may never be able to get the game finished. At the very least, it would take many more years to complete, and that’s just crazy to ask of your team and those that backed you.

Worst of all, someone else, possibly even EA, may use their incredible monetary power to bull rush ahead of you and release something similar before you can get yours out the door.

So, as you can see, it’s a tough decision, one I would be loath to make. This is where we stand with the Oculus Rift. They had pushed back production a couple of times already, and coming out this year was never guaranteed. When you add to that the news that both Sony and Microsoft are both doing their own versions of a VR device, you get a small company that may be thinking its time is nearly up. In comes Facebook to save the day.

Unless you are actually Palmer Luckey and have the decision between taking $2 Billion or declining and banking on yourself and your dream project, you cannot say without a doubt what you would do.

Still, if you take the money, the outcome is often the same. That is, your baby becomes a prostitute for the big company. You are rich now, but you’ll always wonder if you would have been rich anyways, but under your own watch and in charge of your own game.

“Thanks for your awesome idea, the check is the mail. We will make a ton more in profits anyways chump.”

So what’s the point of this post, anyways? Well, for one, I’ve been meaning to write on something in the gaming world, especially since my blog is titled “The Casual Gamer.” Two, I wanted to think about the two different extremes of the kind of world we could be living in given a) no one took the mega corporation’s money, or b) everyone took the money.

I’ll talk about that in the next post.

(EDIT: I have decided to not talk about that in my next post.)




“How wonderful would it be to go back to the way things were? I mean, just keep progressing, but backwards instead of forwards? You know, back to the wonderful days of blatant racism. Back to when gays weren’t even given a closet to hide in. Back when women had a place in the kitchen, not the voting booth.”
—random 70-year-old idiot, stuck in time, hoping to die because they refuse to change.

It all sounds so delightful to some I’m sure. The worst part is that if you ask around a bit, you will find many people that actually agree with this notion, and not just older generations failing to grasp the difficult reality of forward progress.

Take for instance this article: Taking Away the Cheat Sheet

I was recently recommended this article on Twitter by someone I believe to be a very intelligent individual. Being that it was midday on a Wednesday, and I had some time to kill, I dove in for the brief read.

After reading it, I thought of how many times the argument that the author proposes has been brought up, even to me as recently as a couple of months ago.

Now, I have no doubt that the purpose of the article was to pitch the author’s new novel, based on the same premise of the article, and that, overall, the author was presenting the dilemma in a more light-hearted tone. Still, I just can’t help but to play a bit of Devil’s Advocate here and offer up another “What if?” scenario.

If you haven’t read the article yet, I ask that you do read it so that you can understand my own thoughts in regards to it. If you don’t have the time for that, well, here’s a TL:DR of the article’s theme: What if the internet were to be disintegrated? The author believes: “The loss of the Internet would allow us to become someone new.” He also offers examples of how we would connect better with each other by actually having to talk with one another in person, without infinite knowledge at the ready.

I don’t disagree with that. The author’s arguments are sound. My problem stems from the idea that the only way we can better ourselves is to get rid of the internet.

Why must we destroy progress, especially something as vital and important to humankind like the Internet, in order to better ourselves? It’s not just this guy’s opinion of the Internet either.

People have proposed that times were better “back in the day.” Memories flooding their heads with a rose tint, forgetting that not all was so great for everyone back then.

I’m not saying the present, nor the future, is any better. In fact, I believe there will never be peace on earth. There will always be problems, issues and war. They just change with the tides. Our problems now—lack of articulation, over-reliance on technology, willingness to settle for mediocrity, etc.—are just the problems we face today.

These problems may have not existed in the Roaring ‘20s, but the problem of instant communication was prevalent back then. It’s also hard not to think of all the social issues as well. No matter your stance on him, Barack Obama would not have had a chance to even dream of being president of the United States of America in the 1920s.

Getting back to the article, I know the author is not so serious in tone because surely he is aware that the loss of knowledge that he seems to hate so much would be absolutely detrimental to humans the world over.

Would all of the data be lost? No, I’m sure amongst all humans we would be able to piece it back together. But how long would that take? The effort of trying to recover the lost data would impede further progress.

So how about this: Instead of doing the seemingly first human instinct of just destroying and dismissing things we don’t understand, let’s start to work forward and educate our young in the art of conversation, social skills, etc.

The problem isn’t the internet. The internet is a tool, like a hammer or a wrench. Use it wisely, learn what it is capable of, and you will go far. The problem is today’s parents. They need to teach their kids how and when to use tools such as the internet. Just handing them a smartphone or a laptop will surely result in the child doing what they feel best with it, which is understandable.

Bottom line: Parents need to step up and educate their children on the uses of things such as the internet. If they don’t, the child will be subjected to learning those things from their peers. Even Willy Wonka knew who to blame “back in the day”:

We seem to forget how new the internet still is in relation to history. It barely became household accessible in the last 30 years or so, and there are still many people without access to it.

Of course we abused the hell out of it, especially my generation. So much so that, yes, we have become over reliant on instant knowledge at our fingertips. But come on, let’s not be brash and wish for the internet to just be done away with.

As a future teacher, I know that I will face this problem head on when I start to teach. Students will write essays in text lingo, they will crane their necks down to read the last text they just received, they will attempt to look up answers to the quiz on their laptop that they “only use for taking notes.”

I still will not endorse a movement backwards. Can not, will not. Well, except for one exception. I will endorse the progression backward of cartoons that children watch. Because, of course, the cartoons I grew up with were far superior than the drivel nowadays. If you don’t believe me, you can always just look it up on your phone.