Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Some real money

Over the last week or so, I've been asked by half of New Eden what I think about Facebook buying Oculus VR, the makers of the forthcoming Oculus Rift, the platform on which EVE Valkyrie will be a launch title. I was even asked a couple of times if Garth wanted to weigh in on the subject, which was such an intriguing notion that I sat around for a few days to see if Garth felt like doing so. Apparently he doesn't. ;-)

For myself, I come at this topic from three different perspectives: my perspective as a business person, my perspective as a gamer, and my perspective as an old person. ;-) Let's talk about them in reverse order.

As a gamer in my 40s, I'm a generation late for most of the social media thing. I have a Twitter account because I felt like I should start a Twitter account for my first CSM run. I have a blog for the same reason. Would I be doing those things without EVE Online? Probably not. I don't have a Facebook account, I didn't have accounts on its predecessors, and I've never felt much of a need to share my personal life with the Internet. I don't feel like I have anything to be ashamed of or anything. I just grew up at a time when there was enough concern about the Internet that it was accepted that one should try to "stay off the grid" a bit to prevent identify theft, fraud, et cetera.

On that level, Oculus VR being bought out by Facebook concerns me. My feel for the closest approximation to the coming reality of the future has generally been Minority Report. And that is both on the level that I feel like human society is going to become more controlling as the 21st century moves on and advertising and customer outreach is likely to become more pervasive. For those not familiar with the scene that I'm thinking of, at one point, the protagonist of the flick walks down a street and every advertising billboard starts talking to him... where they don't deliberately change to advertise products that some online database thinks the protagonist might buy.

It's a disturbing image of where I think we're going to be in another decade or two.

And so on that level, yeah, I can admit to being a bit concerned that the biggest current purveyor of that image of the future now has its hands on what is likely to be an important -- and very personal! -- piece of hardware. Does this mean I think we're going to have advertisements spinning up before Valkyrie launches? No, almost certainly not. Does this mean I think some database somewhere is going to keep track of the fact that I buy Valkyrie and Star Citizen and use that to start suggesting other games to me when I'm not playing one of those two?

I think that's pretty likely, actually. And as an old person, that scares me a bit. Call me a codger if you must, but you 20-year-olds can have that bit of the future, thanks.

As a gamer, though, I'm actually not all that concerned. Lots of people have said this and I agree with them: it could have been a lot worse. Facebook is going to want to retain "game neutrality" and try to cast the net pretty wide looking for titles. Imagine if Ubisoft or -- God forbid -- EA had bought Oculus VR. This way, we have a good chance of eventually getting both an Assassin's Creed game and a Battlefield game on this platform. As well as, you know, some good games, too. ;-) Kidding, I'm kidding, put that away.

As a gamer I'm also encouraged because the one thing that can help a gaming company out late in their development process is an infusion of cold hard cash. We've all heard stories about games or hardware allllmost completing their development process and then running out of money and the awful jokes that have come out of such a development process. Getting money late in the development process will ensure that Oculus VR puts out a quality product, and Facebook marketing behind it after that can only help. If you get a lot of money too early in the development process, that can disort the vision of the product and ultimately hurt development but the vision of Oculus VR has been locked in for a while now. So a big ol' cash infusion is only to the good here.

As a business person, my feelings run along similar lines. Oculus VR was going to get bought out. It was inevitable. Kickstarter money is cool but there are probably a lot of guys looking to actually get paid out of their efforts and sooner or later, someone was gonna come up with a number that they'd accept. In a way, hopefully this can start to put to rest a lot of concerns about Kickstarter money in general. It's fantastic, don't get me wrong. But I think we're mostly going to see it used to -- *cough* -- kick-start development with the real money coming in later to projects and developers that prove they have a real product.

This kind of mirrors the healthy skepticism that surrounded a lot of the speculative plays during the later years of the dot-com boom of the 1990s. Small loans got a lot of the late dot-coms off the ground but to really break markets open, the people taking the money eventually had to show their ideas made real business sense. Late in the era, it was only these companies that got a second wave of funding that allowed them to actually expand their operations into real empires. I'm thinking here of companies like eBay which essentially started with Kickstarter-level money and only after they had proven themselves over a couple of years were given a large infusion of venture capital.

Oculus VR should go a ways toward quieting those that complain that Kickstarter-funded initiatives are either fraud or fad.

So overall, call me cautiously optimistic. I'm concerned about the back-end use cases of the Oculus VR data, but there are way more potential positives out of this announcement than negatives. That also seems to be the feeling of most of Oculus VR's partners, including CCP. I think we can see there's good reason for them to be so, at least for the moment.

19 comments:

  1. I can see the Oculus VR being a boon to the simulation community as well, we haven't seen a really good flight sim game in a long time, maybe this can kick start some new and interesting ideas?

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  2. Stick to posts like this instead of trying to hang people. They suite you much better.

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    1. We should start a pool for when people will stop whining about Jester's E1 postings in the comments of unrelated blog posts.

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  3. i can see where you a re coming from jester, but they have said where they want to take the rift... and its not gaming... and that's what makes me think im not going to buy one anymore, they want to have people in there homes watching the super ball or football or other sport, watching movies from different pov... witch sounds like a neat fad... but by doing that they are going to take away from us and not have the high lvl of tech and RnD that need to be done to make it work with our advancing computers, they can make a cheap and in all farness one of the dev packs now and the general masses will be happy to use it and think its sweet and can say they are cool..
    no for me FB, EA and ubisoft are the 3 worst company's why could have bought it, personally i would have likes Logitech or one of the other gaming/tech company's to buy it not a in your face advertising company and that's what FB is....

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  4. hmmm.... first csm run. Interesting choice of words there. I hope we'll be seeing a second run from you good sir.

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    1. He's actually referring to an unsuccessful CSM run from several years ago. I believe 2013 was the second run.

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    2. Yep, confirm. My Twitter account dates back 3.4 years or so, to my CSM6 run.

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  5. Half of new Eden ? Half? exaggerate Much?

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    1. He is kidding. Jester doesn't need to say "I kid. I kid." or write an emoticon after each joke that he makes. (However, he is good about holding the reader's hand most of the time to inform them that he is, in fact, joking.) You need to relax and appreciate that he, like any writer, has a person style.

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  6. As an old gamer with impaired eyesight, Oculus Rift never interested me -its hardware is way too reliable on healthy eyes to be compatible with my Eyeballs Mk. I

    Also as an old gamer and internet user, I am too from a generation which learned that both the Governement AND the Internet should know the less possible of you... I recall that each time I get unwanted mails advertising products targetted for female car owners(!). XD

    This said, the news that Facebook bought Oculus VR really doesn't affects me, beyond pondering what will be the impact on CCP. By this buyout, Oculus Rift has become a totally uncool product and the enthusiasm over it has curbed. FB may be a giant and it's nice to have a giant carrying you on its shoulder... but also a giant may have a serious issue with BO.

    Also, in a way, I think that Oculus VR betrayed the volunteers who kickstarted it. If they aimed for the big money, "befriending" the underdogs was just a cheap move on their behalf, specially as those volunteers will get nothing in return... Not even the final product unless they buy it like all the other suckers.

    I think that future prospective kickstarters should consider wether they're helping out a project feasible with the money asked or just will be covering the expenses to someone's launchpad to be a millionaire.

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    1. I'm an entering-my-40s gamer with good vision, but the Rift has only held mild interest for me, too. It will be best for sims, which are a niche within gaming (and not my niche), so I don't know how widespread the interest in them will really be. The 3D TV and the Kinect/Move were supposed to be the next big things too, but apparently not so much.

      I, too, think that this will probably hurt future kickstarters. Not the small, 'need $50 k to produce my boardgame' ones, but I think any of the backers of the type who committed thousands to fund the Rift will be looking instead on how to be an investor and reap the profits of a sale, rather than getting a dev kit and, if they invested enough, a dinner with the developer. It's one thing to be excited about a future product from an indie company, but quite another to help said company produce prototypes that in turn get them facebook money without getting anything (relatively speaking) back.

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  7. Jester, it is even more interesting when you read through the body of Phillip K Dicks body of works. One of the themes which occur within the books is the pervasiveness of advertising. What I enjoyed about Minority Report was how well this was captured compared to other works by the author made into films.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sales_Pitch_(short_story)

    If you can get your hands on the Golden Man (Collection) it has Sales Pitch.

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  8. The only thing that makes me scratch my head is that Facebook bought something fluffy like whatsApp for almost 10 times the money they bought the oculus for. How does a "I send some lines of text" App can have more value than a really good take on virtual reality ... but hey, for FB it is more important to know who is talking with whom than what you play. Sure they will collect both data.

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    1. I hate to say this but as an old fart myself, have you seen how your younger relatives communicate? It has nothing more to do with visuals outside of tumbler. I'm known as the 'cool uncle' not cause I'm anything special but cause I can text and tweet. Sad but true

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    2. While I sort of agree with your premise, they're not really compatible. WhatsApp was valued higher because it's a really popular product with millions of users (it's the user data that FB are interested in). Oculus on the other hand is an awesome concept with a neat prototype that hasn't shipped a finished product.

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  9. "Oculus VR should go a ways toward quieting those that complain that Kickstarter-funded initiatives are either fraud or fad."

    Except that in reality, the FB purchase seems to be having the opposite effect so far. The evidence is anecdotal at this time, but there appear to be a lot of people who are upset with this specifically because of the initial use of Kickstarter, and who have since sworn off funding any other projects this way.

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    1. Exactly, you'll have to pardon me if I don't want to donate to a project so that it can be sold to fill the pockets of the founders and employees. We already have a venture capital system for that basic capitalist function. Of course, it demands a return in exchange for the capital.

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  10. I find it interesting that when someone donates to a Kickstarter project, they think of themselves as investors, ie part owners of the project. This is not the case at all. Oculus needs the millions of capital to actually release properly. Personally I was thinking someone like Amazon would buy them, but I don't mind that it's Facebook myself.

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  11. "Over the last week or so, I've been asked by half of New Eden what I think...."

    looool

    ego much?

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