Gamespot ran a story the other day regarding the negative reaction to Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR. In that article they link to an article on Game Informer in which Oculus VR Vice President Nate Mitchell is quoted as saying :
We assumed that the reaction would be negative, especially from our core community, beyond our core community, we expected it would be positive. I don’t think we expected it to be so negative. As people begin to digest it a bit and think about it, you can see that Twitter and Reddit is swinging back the opposite direction. The onus is on us to educate people, and we want to share everything we’re doing.
However the original Gamespot article has been edited and had the headline changed to : Oculus VR employees got death threats after Facebook sale. In the updated article they quote Palmer Luckey :
We expected a negative reaction from people in the short term, we did not expect to be getting so many death threats and harassing phone calls that extended to our families.We know we will prove ourselves with actions and not words, but that kind of sh** is unwarranted, especially since it is impacting people who have nothing to do with Oculus.
I have absolutely no idea why anyone would find that sort of behaviour even remotely acceptable, this is not a life or death issue, it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things. I lean towards the unhappy camp over the purchase because I am not a fan of Facebook and I feel Oculus should have reached out to the Kickstarter backers but the deal is done and people will have to wait and see what happens next.
Nobody deserves to be on the receiving end of death threats over this issue and it is completely out of order to harass family members who have nothing whatsoever to do with this. I suspect some of that may be point scoring over the amount of data Facebook encourages people to share, but that is no excuse.
There are important issues regarding Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR but they really are in danger of being buried under a sea of vitriol and that is not remotely helpful. Gamespot have carried a couple of good editorials, one from Tom McShea : Facebook, Oculus Rift, and the Kickstarter Backlash. In that article Tom is sympathetic to the Kickstarter backers but also points out the cold harsh realities of the situation. Tom gets to the heart of the matter :
Facebook was not willing to spend money on what Oculus VR might be capable of years ago when the Kickstarter campaign was launched. It was not willing to spend billions of dollars to become an early backer in the next generation of virtual reality. No, it was not a giant corporation that saw the brilliance of this device. It was ordinary people who did–people with a vision and just enough extra money to see their dream realized. And though we know that nothing more than the stated rewards are owed to backers, that doesn’t matter. People gave Oculus VR money when the company needed it most, and now that Oculus has more cash than any of us can fathom, many feel as if their baby has turned its back on them. After all, it wouldn’t have ever reached these heights without investments from the people. Why shouldn’t the backers be rewarded for having such strong beliefs in virtual reality when no one else did?
That is an excellent summary of why some of the Kickstarter backers are angry, they feel betrayed, but Tom also gets to the reality of the situation too:
For those who are still angry, I understand. And it’s fine to shout and yell and let your voices be heard. Think about how you feel now, and don’t forget it. Kickstarter is not going to change. You have to decide if you’re comfortable giving money to a company just so it can potentially become incredibly rich in the future. And understand that no contract has been broken. Oculus VR did what it believed is best for the company, and we can only hope that Facebook stands by its word that it will not interfere in the Rift’s development going forward. I understand why you’re angry. But we have to accept that reality will not always bend to our whims.
I couldn’t agree more and really, I feel the debate now should not be about Oculus Rift, it should be about Kickstarters, Crowd Funding and good will. Peter Brown at Gamespot took a more positive view in his editorial : Why You Shouldn’t Worry about Facebook Buying Oculus Rift. In that article Peter argues that Facebook are in this for the long term, have a good record on open software development, are investing money that should improve development speed and they have the ability to get more users interested in VR, thereby making more developers interested :
The association with a company like Facebook, whose proliferation of users is admirable, will expose Oculus VR and the Rift to a wider audience. With more people interested in VR, there’s a greater chance that game publishers will take VR seriously, and the medium will grow faster than it otherwise would have.
I don’t agree with everything Peter Brown says, especially as Facebook and VR are so different whereas there is some cross over between Instagram and Facebook. However both articles exemplify how you can have differing views without spitting your dummy and having a temper tantrum.
There are issues surrounding this deal, but let’s get matters into perspective, death threats and harassment will only stifle the debate, they do absolutely nothing in terms of moving the debate forward.