“I’d like to congratulate both Facebook and the Oculus owners. But this is where we part ways.”
So wrote Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of the game “Minecraft,” in a commentary posted to his personal website and via a tweet, in which @notch explained: “We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.” This was in light of the surprise bombshell dropped Tuesday that Facebook is buying virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR for $2 billion.
Persson’s anti-Facebook stance doesn’t mean that a virtual, non-Oculus “Minecraft” also won’t happen. He pointed out via Twitter that there’s an unofficial mod that lets Oculus Rift users play “Minecraft.”
These events were set in motion a few weeks ago when Persson took a 12-hour flight to visit the Oculus office, one of the rewards from the company’s Kickstarter campaign. “What I saw,” he writes in his blog post, “was every bit as impressive as you could imagine.”
“As someone who always felt like they were born five or ten years too late, I felt like we were on the cusp of a new paradigm that I might be able to play around with. I could be part of the early efforts to work out best practices, and while I have no doubt that in ten years we’ll look back at the problems with early VR applications in the same we look back at GUI problems with early PC games, it still felt exciting to me. My head started spinning with potential applications and how to deal with all the issues … Of course, they wanted Minecraft.”
Persson countered that it didn’t seem at first to be a natural fit for the Oculus platform, given that it’s motion-based and relies heavily on a graphical user interfact. Maybe, he thought, a kind of lite version of Minecraft would work better. He mentioned that as a suggestion. Both sides started talking.
“And then, not two weeks later, Facebook buys them,” Persson writes, the sigh of lament all but audible while reading his words on the screen. “Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.”
Eventually, he lowers the boom: “I will not work with Facebook. Their motives are too unclear and shifting … And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.”
Oculus earlier this month poached its new chief architect from Valve and announced that it’s staffing up a new R&D office in Seattle. In his post, Persson concluded by wishing the company well, describing its recent growth as the work of a talented set of people inspired to take virtual reality to new heights.
“I have the greatest respect for the talented engineers and developers at Oculus,” he writes. “It’s been a long time since I met a more dedicated and talented group of people. I understand this is purely a business deal, and I’d like to congratulate both Facebook and the Oculus owners. But this is where we part ways.”