To absolutely no surprise, Sony finally unveiled its own new virtual reality headset during the Game Developers Conference last month. Dubbed Project Morpheus, the still untitled 1080p-capable headset aims to rival the Oculus Rift (and whatever Microsoft will inevitably announce) by making use of the PlayStation Move technology used by both the PS3 and PS4 for accurate head-tracking. And just days later, Oculus VR stole every headline possible when it became official that Facebook had acquired the Kickstarter-backed young company for a whopping $2 billion.
The acquisition was met with mixed reactions. While one side argued the obvious benefits of Oculus VR now no longer needing additional financing to gather resources and acquire the best talent, others were concerned that Facebook’s user-data corporate driven business model wasn’t ideal for an innovative startup (see: Notch’s unhappy response). In the end, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg got what he wanted, and the developers at Oculus can have what they need to develop and construct hardware in the best way possible for the consumer market.
Zuckerberg and Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey both reiterate that the ownership change is highly beneficial for both sides and that skeptics will understand why the deal makes “sense” a year from now. The good news for them is that the deal is now officially official, as in approved by the Federal Trade Commission, as of April 22, 2014.
As for the competition, there’s still no word on the official plan for Sony’s device, although CCP Games pledged support for its upcoming EVE Online universe-based space sim EVE: Valkyrie, which was originally a VR test built for Oculus Rift. That’s not surprising since they have a strong relationship, going back to DUST 514 launching exclusively for the PS3. Expect Valkyrie, DUST 514 and possibly even EVE Online all on the PS4 eventually. CCP couldn’t say enough positive things about Sony when we met with them try out Valkyrie with the Rift (then known as EVE-VR).
That was last summer. Much more recently (read: a week before the Facebook-Oculus VR deal was announced) Zuckerberg met with Sony and asked for a tech demo, according to PlayStation marketing executive Guy Longworth. Perhaps Zuckerberg wanted to check out the future competition or verify if his decision to go with Oculus VR was the right one. Longworth jokes that he wishes Zuckerberg acquired their tech instead, but even if he tried Project Morpheus and still went with Oculus VR, that doesn’t mean one is far superior to the other. Although if you ask video game industry analyst Michael Pachter, he’d tell you that Sony trying to jump into the game now with their own headset is a “bad idea,” none of it really matters until the hardware is on the market and affordable.
More importantly, the peripherals aren’t of any use unless there’s exciting, new and innovative content to explore with the tech. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface on that front with existing games like Valve’s lineup of first-person titles adding support, upcoming space sims EVE: Valkyrie and Star Citizen being built with it in mind, and loads of interesting tech demos coming out to tease the future, such as the latest playable walkthrough of the USS Voyager bridge from the TV series Star Trek Voyager.
Say what you will about Facebook’s corporate takeover of the tech-forward company but Zuckerberg loves the Oculus Rift as much as those of us who’ve had the chance to use it do and it’s good to have someone who’s clearly passionate in the tech – and its potential – backing it, and helping guarantee a larger consumer base for developers to craft games and other experiences for. It is going to be messy for consumers and developers if we have another motion-control situation with three different VR headsets, all similar, for three different platforms.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.