Oculus Rift: From Kickstarter Darling to Facebook Acquisition

With the acquisitions of WhatsApp and Oculus Rift, Facebook has had a busy year and it’s only half over. The WhatsApp purchase made sense, but shocked some because CEO Jan Koum was adamant about not selling the company earlier in the year.

The Oculus Rift purchase, on the other hand, shocked many more in the technology world. Palmer Luckey, a college dropout, began working on this virtual reality headset when he was only 15, and he created the first prototype in his parent’s garage in 2009. Oculus Rift started as a completely independent company getting its initial start from a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $2.5 million dollars. (The initial goal for the VR project was just $250,000.)

A lot of their Kickstarter backers felt betrayed when the acquisition was announced, and they took to Oculus Rift’s Kickstarter page to voice their opinions.

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“This is not what I backed this project for. Seriously not. I hope Kickstarter will learn from this and find ways to prevent such abuse of their platform in the future. You lost a lot of credibility due to this. And Oculus? Oh well … RIP,” writes Jashan Chittesh on the Kickstarter site.

But Oculus Rift CEO Brendan Iribe had this to say: “Do we want to be Game Boy, or iPhone or Android?” Iribe realized the mobile platform is where to be these days.

If Oculus were to stick to a handheld platform (i.e. Gameboy), their potential reach would be far less. With the help of Facebook’s users, Oculus Rift’s plan is to put one billion people into an immense virtual world. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate,” said Mark Zuckerberg. But creator Palmer Lucky has also assured people that they won’t need to sign into Facebook to use an Oculus Rift. It will operate independently of Facebook. That remains to be seen.

This isn’t the first time a startup with a devoted fan base has been bought up by a bigger company — and it won’t be the last time either. The future of this acquisition remains to be seen, but I will be surprised if these two companies don’t make an excellent product, utilized for much more than just gaming.

What are your thoughts on Facebook purchasing Oculus Rift? Were you one of the spurned Kickstarter backers? I would love to connect with you on Twitter or in the comments below.