Facebook made a rather bold decision recently by closing down one of the studios for Oculus. The division was actually an award-winning division for the company, and helped bring some critically positive reception to the virtual reality space.
Over on the official Oculus blog, they announced that Facebook is reorganizing their efforts in the virtual reality space, and they are closing down the Oculus Story Studio, the division in charge of interactive VR shorts like Dear Angelica and the award-winning Henry.
According to Oculus' Jason Rubin,
As part of that shift, we'll be winding down Story Studio.
Facebook is still investing heavily into the virtual reality platform, including pouring more than $250 million into the VR space, on top of the $2 billion they've already invested into the Oculus Rift and VR. They don't mention how much they invested into Oculus between the $2 billion, and the recent injection of putting $250 million back into the division. But they're obviously curtailing some efforts in the hopes of honing in on a more specific direction with VR: namely games.
The money they're taking out of the Oculus Story Studio, which is shutting down, is going toward funding projects both in-house and externally to help bring more exclusive content to the Oculus Store and the Oculus Rift. Some of these investment projects included the highly advertised Robo Recall, Harmonix's Rock Band VR, along with the movie-themed adventure game Wilson's Heart, which was featured on Conan O'Brien's Clueless Gamer segment recently.
They will also dedicate $50 million to non-gaming related content for the Oculus Rift, such as helping jumpstart visual interactive projects, movies, and even television experiences such as viewing things like the 2016 NBA finals. Maybe next year they'll be able to land that current year's finals, so people can watch the 2018 NBA finals live from their Oculus Rift in full VR. I have to admit, it would be pretty cool to experience something like that in real-time.
Even though the Story Studio has been shut down, Facebook and the team at Oculus did not scrap all of the hard work they produced. Their short films are still available to download from the Oculus Store for those who would like to view them, and some of the tools and middleware that was either designed or fitted for the VR experience are still available for developers to use in their own projects. This includes the Quill tool suite to help design VR applications.
This definitely makes you wonder what the adoption rates really are of VR, and more specifically the Oculus Rift. Is the headset actually doing well on the market? Obviously the game division seems to be on the right track, hence the $200 million being reinvested into interactive entertainment media. Following a string of hiccups and missteps with their VR division, could Facebook actually manage to get things on track for 2017, or will it still be a year full of tech-demos and partially fulfilled potential? We'll just have to wait and see.