Shocker: Facebook to buy Oculus Rift for US$2 billion

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Facebook has announced that it is acquiring VR headset innovators Oculus Rift, for a cool US$2 billion. Oculus Rift is the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games. The project was successfully funded on Kickstarter on 1 September 2012, exceeding its US$250,000 with over US$2.4 million of funding from over 9,500 backers.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” he continued, “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

It looks like an odd match-up but Zuckerberg had this to say, “Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. ” He left a reassuring statement for the skeptics, “We’re going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this.”

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After games, Facebook will make Oculus a platform for other experiences including possible applications in a classroom environment, a tennis match or a doctor’s consultation – all from the comfort of your home, with Oculus Rift on your head of course. It is both scary and exciting at the same time.

The device has won industry acclaim for its amazing immersive gaming experience and even won the Game Critics Awards, Best of E3 2012. John Carmack of id Software lamented, “What I’ve got now, is, I honestly think the best VR demo probably the world has ever seen.”

According to the Oculus team, a couple of months ago, the Facebook team paid a visit to the Oculus office to see latest demos and discuss how they could work together.  It seems that both parties shared a similar vision of connecting billions of people, and the potential for VR.

While Facebook and Oculus are chuffed, early backers and supporters of Oculus are not, citing “sell out.” The overall sentiments range from “sell out” to “feeling cheated” to “I want my pledge back.”

The Oculus acquisition is $17 billion less that what Facebook paid for WhatsApp, another shocker of the deal that was announced last month. The Oculus deal is reported to be worth US$400 million in cash and the balance made up of Facebook shares. The deal is expected to be completed in Q2 2014.

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