Facebook Oculus Purchase Defended by Cliff Bleszinski, the Former Epic Games Designer Tells Gamers Not to Worry

By Matthew Buzzi , Updated Mar 27, 2014 12:20 PM EDT
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Cliff Bleszinski, designer behind Unreal and Gears of War and general gaming industry personality, has thrown his support behind Oculus' decision to sell its company to Facebook in a blog post, and assures gamers about the future of the device. His opinions, though possibly biased due to his involvement, echo my own thoughts on the subject from yesterday.

In the interest of full disclosure, Bleszinski starts by stating that he's an investor in Oculus (a real one, not just someone who donated to Kickstarter), having gotten involved early on when he first tried the Rift virtual reality headset and declared that it was "going to be huge".

He wrote on his blog, "Financially, I'm excited, but when that dust settles my heart says that I really, genuinely care about VR and I want to experience and enjoy it myself, and I have faith that it will still happen, and it will be better than ever."

Bleszinski suggests that if programming legend John Carmack and Oculus founder Palmer Lucky both think the Facebook acquisition is a good idea, that should tell you something. He also explains that although Rift was in a pretty good place and is a popular device, it wasn't out of the woods yet, and there were more problems to solve.

"Someone somewhere needs to come up with a proper control scheme for it. Looking around is only one part of the experience, how the device handles movement is another thing entirely. In the words of Brendan, their CEO "VR is like an onion, whenever we solve one thing we find something else that we need to crack, Cliffy B wrote.

"More importantly," he continues, "they needed an ecosystem. IF their system is going to be (hopefully) a dedicated system instead of a (ugh) peripheral they need their version of whatever the app store would be. Your device is only as good as the store and community around it; if users can't say shut up and take my money, if developers can't post their work then the device will ultimately flounder. Facebook can assist with this sort of thing, as well as having a multibillion-user reach. That's pretty damned important."

He clearly believes Facebook can offer something Oculus needed, and it can't reach its full potential without it. Yes, it might grow beyond games (which seems to be the thing upsetting most gamers), but there are so many more uses for the technology that people should be excited about.

"When a company raises money from venture capitalists the end game IS acquisition," he explains. "While it might have been interesting for a dedicated gaming company to purchase Oculus it might have ultimately limited their potential in regards to the myriad of things that the Rift is capable of. I want games, but I also want virtual tourism. PTSD treatment. End of life quality comfort care improvements. Treatment for a variety of fears. Architectural visualization. Pilot training. Scuba training.

"The list simply goes on, and on, and on. Start to imagine a VR experience that's more social where you can sit, say, in a virtual IMAX with your best friends who all live in different cities and things start getting incredibly intriguing.

"People are very rear window in their thinking online "Oh now we're going to get Farmville VR." Maybe Zuck sees what everyone else has seen - the future - and wants to make sure it's more than just great games and saw that it would add value to his business?"

Zuckerberg's statement explained that Rift does have many uses, and that "immersive gaming will be the first" and Oculus' plans won't be changing and Facebook "hope to accelerate [those plans]."

He also points to Facebook's acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, both of which are doing perfectly well since they were purchased and operating relatively autonomously, something I pointed out in my writing yesterday.

The former Epic Games director finishes with some words for those who donated to Kickstarter and feel wronged by the buyout.

"Crowdfunding can only take you so far, especially when you're doing something this ambitious. 'I donated money to add value to a company that was eventually sold!' Well, that's kind of how business works, folks, hate to be the bearer of bad news."

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