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Gamers, developers say they’ll abandon Oculus after Facebook deal

The Post's Brian Fung tells you what you need to know about Facebook's plan to acquire Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset for video games. (Jason Aldag and Kate M. Tobey/The Washington Post)

Many of Oculus VR's most vehement supporters are thrashing the company Wednesday after news that the virtual-reality hardware firm has agreed to be acquired by Facebook for around $2 billion in cash and stock.

While the reports of Facebook's acquisition may have been the first time many in the general public had ever heard of Oculus, the company and its only product -- the pre-production virtual reality goggles known as the Oculus Rift -- have long had an avid following among gamers intrigued by the possibilities the technology presented for the future of gaming. The company had just created a lot of excitement by announcing it would be releasing its second developers kit for the product, which improves on the stability of the virtual reality environment, at the Game Developers Conference last week.

Now that Oculus has agreed to be acquired by Facebook, however, many of those fans seem convinced that Oculus is no longer the company to realize those possibilities, since Facebook -- despite having supported socially-focused games on its platform -- is not, at its core, a gaming company.

In a post about the acquisition, Facebook chief executive  Mark Zuckerberg promised that "Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook," and continue its focus on gaming, though he also added that it will work closely with its new parent company to build the product and develop partnerships.

But Oculus supporters don't appear convinced.

Markus Persson, the owner of Mojang Games and creator of Minecraft, summed it up this way on his personal blog:

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.

He went on to say that he recognizes the possibilities that virtual reality has for social applications, but that he doesn't want to "work with social, I want to work with games." Persson also added that he did not invest "ten grand" during the firm's first investment round to build the firm's value for a Facebook acquisition.

He was even more blunt on Twitter, saying that he would cancel an ongoing plan to put his blockbuster game onto Oculus's virtual reality platform.

On reddit, where there has been a strong Oculus Rift community, fans were equally direct. A post by Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey promising that not much would change in the day-to-day operations at the company -- and emphasizing that Facebook is "run in an open way" -- was roasted by the community, who were liberal with the use of words such as "betrayal," "lying" and "disgust." (Or worse.)

Reaction was particularly negative from those who backed the virtual-reality goggles when they were just a project on Kickstarter. The project, which aimed to raise $250,000 by September 2012, pulled in $2.43 million from over 9,500 backers  lured by the next-generation project designed "for gamers, by gamers."

But deep distrust of Facebook, particularly of its advertising practices, have repelled many Oculus supporters who indicated that they do not think it's possible for the company to keep those populist roots in light of the new deal.

As of Wednesday morning, the Oculus VR support page on how to cancel your Rift order was in the top 10 posts on the front page of reddit -- and climbing.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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