Facebook buys Oculus VR - Why early backers and fans went nuclear


Facebook once again shocked the world with another huge acquisition when it bought Oculus VR on Tuesday for $2 million. Early backers of Oculus Rift lashed out against the buyout on the company's Kickstarter page shortly after the deal was announced. Fans of the virtual reality gaming system went absolutely nuclear.

Fans accused Oculus of selling out, while early backers of the project, which raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter, accused the company of betraying their trust. Many backers of the project declared that they were done with Oculus and withdrew their support.

"What [sic] was the point of Kickstarter if you sell out to a giant company like Facebook?" one user named Michael Cooper wrote on the Oculus Rift fund-raising page. "This is very disappointing. I will no longer be supporting the Oculus Rift in any way."

Other backers seconded Cooper's opinion, expressing rage and contempt for the creators of Oculus Rift as well as their fear that the pure vision of Oculus VR will now be distorted by Facebook and its quest for user data. 

"I would have NEVER given a single cent of my money to Oculus if I had known you were going to sell out to Facebook," former supporter John Wolf wrote. "You sold all of us out."

Many users seemed more disillusioned than irate and took to the Kickstarter page to shake their heads in dismay over the buyout.

"I'm disappointed," John Susek, an Oculus backer, wrote. "You had the potential to become bigger than Facebook on your own."

Although not all of the comments on Oculus' Kickstarter page were negative, the vast majority of them were. Some users even engaged in fierce arguments with those who cheered Facebook's purchase of Oculus VR. David Tse, one of the few commentators who came out in support of the buyout, argued that Kickstarter backers had no right to get upset at the owners of Oculus VR.

"You have no extra entitlements or rights because you were a backer," Tse wrote. "You should not feel personally insulted by this deal. Oculus successfully fulfilled all of their obligations to every single Kickstarter backer by delivering a kicka** dev. kit. This move is not a big f*** you, it's a decision they made as a company to grow and create the best VR products they can for us."

One commentator named Drew Madsen, responded angrily to Tse's post, saying that, "I want them to push the making of games, REAL games, for the Oculus Rift, not turn the Rift into a marketing ploy for Facebook."

"I backed this concept in the hopes they'd make something wonderful," wrote Madsen in another comment. "Sadly all they did was make themselves wonderfully rich."

"Where do I apply for a refund?" he demanded.

Madsen wasn't alone in calling for a refund. Several other early backers also said they wanted their money back. However, since Oculus has already delivered the promised incentives to its backers, a refund is out of the question. For better or for worse Kickstarter funders just learned the hard way that backing a project doesn't give them any say in the future direction of the company.

Many Kickstarter projects like Oculus Rift start out as humble and incredibly ambitious projects. The creators of crowdfunded projects gain their backer's trust in large part because their vision is pure and their goals are not dictated by profit margins. However, in order for a Kickstarter project to fulfill its true promise and create a mass produced product, its creators need more money than couch-surfing crowdfunding investors can give.

Prior to its sale to Facebook, Oculus VR had raised $90 million in venture capital, so that its vision for virtual reality gaming could grow and expand. Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey seemed ready for the inevitable backlash after the sale of his company to Facebook.

In a very detailed Reddit post, Luckey defended his decision, saying that Facebook's support will help advance the growth of VR gaming because it "accelerates our vision, allows us to execute on some of our most creative ideas, and take risks that were otherwise impossible." 

"Most importantly, it means a better Oculus Rift with fewer compromises even faster than we anticipated," Luckey added. "[There will be] very little changes day-to-day at Oculus, although we'll have substantially more resources to build the right team."

Only time will tell if Luckey's decision to sell Oculus VR to Facebook will help or hurt the future of the VR gaming industry. Although Oculus' former supporters aren't holding their breath, Luckey seems to truly believe that Facebook will help further the VR gaming agenda.

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