The Oculus party is coming to an end. Facebook has announced that a Facebook account will be required to use an Oculus device starting this October. That means all first-time users will need to sign up for a Facebook account and all existing Oculus account users can either merge their accounts with a Facebook one or use their non-Facebook accounts until January 1, 2023. After that, Oculus accounts will no longer be supported.
This is a major slap in the face to anyone who enjoys using Oculus's VR headsets and, perhaps, doesn't want to connect their data to Facebook or maybe create a Facebook account. After six years, Mark Zuckerberg is finally forcing Facebook on its $2 billion acquisition.
Independence forever from Facebook was never guaranteed when Palmer Luckey sold Oculus to Facebook. And the writing was basically on the wall after he was fired from Oculus in 2017 and several other top executives at the company including Brendan Iribe and Nate Mitchell left in the years after.
While Luckey claims he did his best to shield Oculus from Facebook completely absorbing the company's operations earlier, whatever protections he put in place expires this October for new users and then on the first day of 2023 for existing Oculus customers.
RIP Oculus. Long live Oculus!
Returning to the mothership — Oculus may have operated separately under Facebook, but make no mistake: Mark Zuckerberg is hell-bent on forcing Facebook into everything it owns. Not just Oculus, but Instagram and WhatsApp.
All of these may have been separate apps and platforms prior to selling to Facebook, but Zuckerberg has already said he plans to unify them on a single platform. Most recently, Facebook has notified Instagram users that they can "update" their Instagram Direct so that they can send and receive messages from Messenger contacts. Yuck! Requiring a Facebook account to use an Oculus headset is just one step in building this communications empire that Zuckerberg has long touted.
Facebook says the change is all in service of enabling more social VR experiences for users:
Giving people a single way to log into Oculus — using their Facebook account and password — will make it easier to find, connect, and play with friends in VR. We know that social VR has so much more to offer, and this change will make it possible to integrate many of the features people know and love on Facebook. It will also allow us to introduce more Facebook powered multiplayer and social experiences coming soon in VR, like Horizon, where you can explore, play, and create worlds. The majority of our users are already logging into Oculus with a Facebook account to use features like chats, parties, and events, or to tune into live experiences in Oculus Venues. We’re also making it easier to share across our platforms if you’d like. For example, people already have the option to livestream or share their VR experience on Facebook, and soon you’ll be able to use your VR avatar on other Facebook apps and technologies.
I mean, sure. But also, can't you just make this stuff without Facebook? Clearly, the goodwill of Oculus users isn't more valuable than inevitably shoehorning Facebook services into everything imaginable. Plus, by consolidating its acquisitions, Facebook makes it harder for regulators to break it up if they decide that's a good idea.
A storm before a launch — No doubt, Facebook's announcement today was carefully timed to not overshadow the announcement of the Oculus Quest 2 (lite?!) rumored for early September. Better to let the angry mobs vent weeks before the launch of a new headset than find out the new terms during.
Dropping this bomb now, however, doesn't mean Oculus users still won't feel betrayed. Some people have already denounced the change and have declared Oculus over. But will these diehard and vocal Oculus users really leave the platform for another like HTC's Vive? When it comes to social VR experiences, Facebook is playing to dominate the space, not just to win a majority share of the pie.
Time will tell if this really is the beginning of the end of Oculus. If enough users leave, Facebook may realize in hindsight it made a grave miscalculation.