Oculus Rift backers upset over Facebook acquisition

When Oculus Rift was once a far-off dream in its founders' minds, a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 brought that dream closer to reality. When news of Facebook's acquisition of Oculus was announced Tuesday, some of those 9,522 backers were not happy.

Some backers took to the project's Kickstarter comment page, saying that they felt cheated and blamed Oculus founder Palmer Luckey.

"This is a huge betrayal, Palmer. Make no mistake about it, you've just lost a huge chunk of the faith and pride we all had in you and in what you started _with_our_help_," writes Noah Wexo, a Kickstarter user from Denver, Colo.

"I feel cheated. I backed a vision of what I wanted gaming to be in the future. Now all I want is my money back," remarked Grant Wilkinson, another user.

"I backed a VR project for games, not a massive social media company's fairly obvious attempt to stay relevant in the face of a waning Facebook and make more money in the long run," commented Brian Bedford, a game developer and artist from Irvine, Calif.

Still, not everyone shared the cynicism. Some agreed while the news of the merger was definitely unexpected, it was still good for the Oculus Rift project, because Facebook would increase funding and help Oculus achieve their goals.

"Virtual [r]eality is a powerful tool, but just because our first virtual reality explorations have been in video [games] doesn't mean the technology is going to remain exclusive...for long," explains Robin Arnott, a sound designer who backed the technology, in an email to CBS News. "Oculus has the smartest VR thinkers on the planet, and this acquisition by a communications company suggests some exciting things in the future for VR, not as a gaming medium, but as a communications medium."

Although Arnott has as much "distaste for corporatism as the next eccentric artist," he trusts the Oculus team. He says that as an artist working in virtual reality, this just means he has a bigger, stronger company at his back.

Brian Fargo, a Kickstarter creator and veteran video-game designer, went on Twitter to congratulate the Oculus team.


It is not uncommon for Kickstarter projects to go onto bigger and better stages post-funding. Robin Sloan's first book was funded by Kickstarter before becoming a New York Times bestselling author; Nataly Dawn, the singer-songwriter, funded her solo album before being signed by Nosuch Records; and "Pariah," a movie about a Brooklyn teen discovering her sexual identity, was acquired by Focus Features.

The Oculus Rift had some major power players backing the technology, including "Minecraft" creator Markus Persson and Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler. Persson went on a tirade, when he found out that Facebook had acquired the startup -- saying he did not want to work with Facebook because its motives are too unclear. Kickstarter, however, declined to comment.

At the same time that Facebook publicly announced the acquisition, Oculus posted to its blog -- its first attempt at explaining why it had joined forces with Facebook.

"At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook...when you consider it more carefully, we're culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step," the post reads.

It may have been obvious to Oculus, but supporters did not see it. As they began to decry the move, Luckey jumped on Reddit to do damage control -- a second attempt at explaining the acquisition.

"Facebook is going to give us access to massive resources, but let us operate independently on our own vision. There are so many things we can do that used to be impossible," Luckey wrote, fielding Reddit users' questions. "Facebook [also] has a good track record on open hardware and software, which is great for us. We want to make our hardware and software even more open than they already are, and they are totally cool with that."

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