Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe wants to put one billion people into a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) world and after Facebook paid $2 billion to acquire the company, he just might be able to make it happen.
"This is going to be an MMO where we want to put one billion people in VR," Iribe announced to the gathered listeners at his fireside chat during the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week.
Iribe and Oculus are now working to leverage the Facebook acquisition into a new massively multiplayer online world that will aim to go beyond just games in order to create a new communication network.
More than just a gaming platform
Facebook and the people at Oculus will have to move beyond the perception that their headset and VR as a product is seen as a gaming platform.
"[Do] you want to be building a platform that has a billion people on it, or 10 or 20 or 50 million people," commented Iribe as he described the necessity of moving away from a gaming-only product. "[Consoles] and gaming-targeted devices usually only get to a 50 or 100 million total audience."
The challenge of attempting to build a platform capable of handling and engaging a billion people is a steep one. Consider these facts:
- World of Warcraft, the largest traditional MMO to date, peaked at only 12 million users.(source)
- League of Legends, another massive online game, announced over 67 million players as of January 2014.(source)
- Facebook game, FarmVille, peaked at over 80 million users.(source)
- All home game consoles ever sold, starting from 1982, total much less than the 1 billion proposed users of Oculus's new MMO (source).
However, Iribe was quick to point out that Oculus and Facebook would not forget gamers, only that it cannot be their only focus. "We're very committed to gaming. But do we want to be Game Boy or do we want to be iPhone or Android?" he said. "I think Game Boy was an awesome platform, but I think you'll see handheld game devices largely disrupted by the mobile market and mobile devices."
We're going to need a bigger network
Leveraging the massive amount of active Facebook users is certainly a great place to start. However, Iribe understands that the current technology will not support his ultimate plan and that it would "take a bigger network than exists in the world today" in order to make it reality.
Even convincing 10% of Facebook's active user base to purchase hardware in order to connect to the new network of services will be daunting.
The endgame is creating an interconnected virtual world that mimics and replaces Facebook's current social network and allows a virtual conversation to take place between users. "If you let go, you can have a real conversation with a person. That's the holy grail we're trying to get to," Iribe said.