The power-shifting nature of acquisitions always has a bit of blowback. Take, for example, Spotify’s acquisition of The EchoNest, the algorithms powering Spotify and their competitor’s radio. Now that The EchoNest is working for a new boss, other streaming services like Janus Friis’s Rdio are jumping ship.
The same thing seems to be happening after Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift. Markus “Notch” Persson, founder of Minecraft wrote a fairly scathing blog post after the news broke, explaining why he would no longer be building a slimmed down version of Minecraft for the virtual reality platform.
Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.
Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend’s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you’re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?
But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.
The whole post is worth reading as well.
Will this matter? The Minecraft image above is from an indie mod, called Minecrift, trying to move Minecraft to the platform one way or another. Additionally Facebook has developed a thick skin over the years. From 2005-era backlash against the newsfeed, to allowing your parents to get on the platform, the social network has made plenty of unpopular decisions. People were amazed after the Instagram acquisition, shocked after Whatsapp, and a little troubled after this Oculus Rift’s acquisition.
Notch throws around a lot of weight in the indie gaming community, but developers interested in Virtual Reality are eventually going to settle with whatever platform is the cheapest, easiest to use, and has the most user numbers. Facebook, like it or not, is all about user numbers.
New paradigm shifting technology, like the rise of personal computers, has historically had a little bit of play with hobbyists to tool around with for a few years before someone figures out they can slap ads on it or otherwise eek out all the monetization they can get from the platform. The first PC’s didn’t have McAfee AntiVirus and the ASK.com toolbar pre-installed (well, for a number of reasons).
But tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook realize to stay relevant they need to be purchasing (and therefore monetizing) fresh technology, so we’ll be hearing about more and more of these acquisitions that make you respond with “seriously?” While we get it that it’s just business, let’s just hope that someone will develop adblock for Virtual Reality, 3D printing, or whatever the next acquisition will be.