Oculus Rift and Facebook have ambitious aims for their virtual-reality headset – the two companies want to put 1 billion people into a massive virtual world.
The virtual reality startup, leveraging the $2bn investment gained from Facebook’s recent surprise acquisition, is working on a new massively multiplayer online (MMO) world that aims to go beyond gaming to create a new communication network, said Oculus's chief executive, Brendan Iribe.
"This is going to be an MMO where we want to put 1 billion people in VR,” Iribe told attendees of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York on Tuesday.
More than all of the gaming consoles sold since 1982
To achieve this goal, it would require Facebook to shift more Oculus Rift headsets than all of the gaming consoles sold globally since 1982 combined. Iribe explained that the only way to reach those heights is to expand beyond gaming, taking heed from smartphones, which collectively sold over 1bn devices globally in 2013, accounting for 55% of all mobile phone sales.
"Do you want to build a platform that has 1 billion users on it, or only 10, 20, or 50 million?" asked Iribe.
The challenge of building a 1 billion person-strong MMO is not lost on Iribe. World of Warcraft, the biggest traditional MMO game, peaked at 12 million monthly active users in 2010. Other, less virtual world-style MMOs have found greater user numbers, primarily powered by Facebook, including Zynga’s farming community game FarmVille which topped 80 million users in 2010.
'A bigger network than exists in the world today'
Iribe admitted that building a 1 billion-user community world was "going to take a bigger network than exists in the world today.” He said that Facebook, with its 1.23 billion monthly active users was certainly a good start, suggesting that the Oculus Rift could be used to represent an interconnected virtual world similar to Facebook’s social network.
Convincing even 10% of Facebook users to buy a virtual reality headset is going to be difficult, however.
The Oculus chief said that while the 1 billion person MMO was the endgame, the company would still be committed to more traditional games as well as leveraging the headset as a way to have virtual conversations with real people.
"If you let go, you can have a real conversation with a person. That's the holy grail we're trying to get to,” said Iribe.
• Facebook gets in a row with games firm Zenimax over who actually owns key parts of technology behind Oculus Rift, with Doom-creator John Carmack at its heartThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 7th May 2014 11.02 Europe/London
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010