The idea of exploring game worlds in virtual reality has been depicted in sci-fi films and books for years now, so it should come as no surprise that so much interest has been directed towards Oculus Rift, the crowd-funded VR gaming headset that’s at the forefront of virtual reality gaming technology. Oculus Rift’s fans include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose company acquired Oculus VR for the steep price of $2 billion earlier this year.
Despite the excitement there’s still a long uphill journey to go for Oculus Rift, which still has no consumer release date set. Its success is largely dependent upon adoption by AAA developers and the subsequent release of games that make use of the technology, but the general preference for traditional video game controllers has already led to mixed success for previous innovations like the Kinect and PlayStation Move.
Since the Facebook buyout many people have been curious to hear what Zuckerberg’s hopes and plans are for Oculus Rift, and during a Q3 2014 earnings call this week he made it clear that the acquisition was a long-term investment based on the direction that he expects computing to take over the next couple of decades.
“Every 10-15 years a new major computing platform arrives, and we think virtual and augmented reality are important parts of this upcoming next platform… We continue to see a lot of excitement in the developer community, and we’ve now shipped more than 100,000 Rift developer kits to over 130 countries… Our efforts here will take longer to achieve their full impact, but we’re going to continue preparing for the future by investing aggressively.”
It definitely doesn’t sound like those two billion dollars were dropped casually. Zuckerberg wasn’t shy about his ambitions for the Oculus Rift, stating that Facebook will need to sell 50-100 million units in order to be considered an important platform. For comparison’s sake, the PlayStation Move and the Kinect were both introduced in 2010; the Move had shipped 15 million units by the end of 2012 and the Kinect had sold 24 million units by February 2013.
Zuckerberg estimated that it will take a “bunch of years” for the Oculus Rift to sell as many units as he’s hoping for, but said that Facebook has been encouraged by the number of developers already designing apps and games for the platform. It will take more than a few apps for the Oculus Rift to succeed as more than just a gimmick, of course.
Do you think the idea of 50-100 million people buying the Oculus Rift in the years following its release is a pipe dream, or could this be the next gaming accessory that everyone simply has to have? Tell us what you think of Zuckerberg’s ambitious claim in the comments.