Oculus VR, the company behind the game-changing Oculus Rift virtual reality headset wants to build something no other company has ever created: an MMO (massive multiplayer online game) that will let 1 billion people connect.
I've always said that in order for virtual reality to ever succeed, it needs to be more than just a product that caters to a niche. Oculus VR seems to know this too. At TechCrunch Disrupt, Brendan Iribe, Oculus VR's CEO, said the company doesn't just want to target the 100 million audience that is the gamer crowd. It wants to use its VR technology to reach and connect 1 billion people — you, your kids, your parents, and your grandparents.
It's one thing to say that you want everyone to jack into virtual reality, but it's another to actually execute on that vision. When Oculus VR sold itself to Facebook in March for $2 billion, founder Palmer Luckey said the decision to sell was based mostly on scalability. Facebook's huge checkbook would allow Oculus VR to grow its research and development and make good on delivering a VR headset in volume.
"The partnership accelerates our vision, allows us to execute on some of our most creative ideas and take risks that were otherwise impossible," wrote Luckey on an Reddit.
We now know that some of those "creative ideas" include a billion-person MMO. Without Facebook, Oculus could never build that type of experience. It takes years (decades even) for companies to build an infrastructure that supports over a billion users. With Facebook, Oculus VR doesn't need to start from scratch. It simply has to build a platform for the 1.3 billion active users that already use Facebook.
"This is gonna be an MMO where we want to put a billion people in VR," Iribe told TechCrunch. "And a billion person virtual world MMO is gonna require a bigger network than exists today. Why not start with Facebook and their infrastructure, and their team and their talent that they've built up?"
Not only that, but before Oculus VR was swallowed up by Facebook, there was doubt among developers and publishers on whether VR could ever go mainstream:
"The biggest thing I think for us was that some of the really large developers out there who typically look at a platform and are late adopters to a new platform — because they need to see the monetization, they need to see the return, they want to see a huge audience — they turned around to us after the announcement and said ‘we’re so happy to see a new platform. It’s about time. We’re all in. We’re ready to start developing content for this."
The big question now is, what exactly does Oculus VR mean by MMO? Do they mean an actual game like World of Warcraft or just some kind of gigantic VR hangout to do boring Facebook stuff? Because if this is just gonna be a billion-person Second Life or PlayStation Home, I'm probably just gonna stick to reality in the future.
"We know with Oculus, with a virtual world, if you're putting on this pair of glasses and you're gonna be face-to-face communicating with people, you're gonna be jumping in and out of this new set of virtual worlds, this is gonna be the largest MMO ever made," says Iribe.