Oculus CEO Says Selling To Facebook Convinced Big Developers To Build For It

“Do we want to be Game Boy, or iPhone or Android?” That’s how Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe says his team considered the acquisition by Facebook. Without the financial backing, Oculus may have had to scale back its ambitions. But now, big developers are flocking to build for the Oculus virtual reality platform.

On stage during a fireside chat at TechCrunch Disrupt NY with co-editor Matthew Panzarino, Iribe followed up saying,

“I think Game Boy is an awesome platform, but I think you’ll see handheld gaming largely disrupted by the mobile market…And for VR where we want to go, connecting a billion people, do you want to be building a platform that has a billion people on it, or 10 or 20 or 50 million people…for game developers, they’re going to a have a lot more success shipping their content into…a platform that has a billion users, more than 50 million or 100 million. And consoles and gaming-targeted devices usually only get to a 50 to 100 million total audience.

You can watch the full video of Iribe’s talk below:

Developers kicked and screamed when Facebook bought Oculus. But Iribe told me backstage that the acquisition actually convinced big developers that Oculus was a stable platform they could confidently build for. It turns out that for all the talk about hating big corporate parent companies, what matters more for devs is knowing their efforts won’t go up in smoke because the platform runs out of money. And Facebook has very deep pockets.

Though there was a short period of grumbling, Iribe says “We announced our deal a few days after [the Oculus Developer Kit 2 went on pre-sale] and continued to a see adoption go through the roof. We sold as many units in the first 12 months of DK1 as we did in the first month on DK2.” You can watch our backstage interview at the top of this post.

What is most fascinating isn’t the volume of entrepreneurs piling into Oculus, but that Facebook lured in the top developers:

“The biggest thing I think for us was that some of the really large developers out there who typically look at a platform and are late adopters to a new platform — because they need to see the monetization, they need to see the return, they want to see a huge audience — they turned around to us after the announcement and said ‘we’re so happy to see a new platform. It’s about time. We’re all in. We’re ready to start developing content for this. And so now for the general developer, there’a greater chance that you’re going to be able to develope something and then create a business off of our platform, knowing that with this partnership, it’s going to be bigger, better, faster.”

Really, this outcome shouldn’t be such a surprise. When Facebook bought Parse, some developers got pissed and threatened to jump ship. But in the year since the acquisition, Parse has grown from 60,000 to 260,000 apps.

Yes, developers on both platforms now have to deal with Facebook getting an eagle-eyed view of what’s working and what isn’t. If someone builds a great messaging feature on Parse or a private VR chat room on Oculus, Facebook might know about it sooner so it could clone it. That fear seems to be supersceded by the promise of stability, though.

Having Facebook behind Parse assured developers that Parse’s platform wouldn’t disappear, and instead would have resources to accelerate its progress. The same seems to be happening to Oculus. The company has even started a new research group that will work with universities to get students building VR experiences.

In fact, there’s a trickle-down effect happening now around venture capital investment in virtual reality content developers. Iribe tells me “VCs are now investing in developers’ projects” around Oculus, because they too know the platform has longevity.

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