Power

Facebook thinks the future of Oculus is top-end games

"Games came first, they are well-established and will be a huge business for a really long time," says Facebook Reality Labs VP Mike Verdu.

Facebook thinks the future of Oculus is top-end games

Jurassic World Aftermath is among the new titles announced Wednesday for Oculus.

Image: Universal Games and Digital Platforms

For six years, Facebook's Oculus division has been trying to turn virtual reality from an esoteric hobby for tech nerds into an accessible new form of mass entertainment. After trying different strategies, Facebook now appears to believe that the best way to accomplish that is to provide a serious menu of top-end VR video games.

Even as Facebook revealed a new wireless VR headset, the Quest 2, the company also announced deals Wednesday to bring some of the world's most popular game franchises to the platform, led by Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell, Universal's Jurassic World Aftermath, the foundational independent game Myst and Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000.

Wednesday's broad slate of gaming announcements appeared to solidify the company's commitment to supporting so-called AAA games in VR. While other types of content like virtual tourism, fitness and work collaboration may prove important, gaming has emerged as the key driver for consumer VR.

"Games came first, they are well-established and will be a huge business for a really long time," Mike Verdu, vice president for content at Facebook Reality Labs, said in an interview Monday. "Gaming is the main driver of user engagement and spending. It's the place where it's evolved enough to where developers are seeing numerical success and have reached a self-sustaining state in VR."

"We're now moving from a simple to a more emotional experience," Verdu added. "The early experiences were like a thrill ride in an amusement park: They're short, they're intense, they elicit a very sharp reaction, and then you're done and ready to move on. Fast forward a few years, and the experiences are becoming rich and deep and complex. So the flywheel in gaming has taken off, and we really see that as a key pillar for VR."

Rand Miller, co-creator (with his brother Robyn) of 1993's iconic game Myst, said in an interview that he had wanted to create a VR version of the game for years, but did not move forward in earnest until he discovered the original Quest headset last year. The value of the Quest's easy setup (no computer required) and cordless freedom became clear to him once his non-techie wife took over the headset, he said. Miller added that lower prices for the new models were also important to make VR available to a broader audience. (The new Quest 2 will start at $299.)

"We really do feel obligated to our fans, and we didn't want Myst in VR to feel like it was elitist, that it was only available if you had a lot of money to get into it," he said. He said the new Myst for Oculus would be available later this year and would essentially be a completely rebuilt version of the original.

Ubisoft, on the other hand, is planning to build totally new games in the Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell franchises exclusively for Oculus, not remakes of earlier titles. Elizabeth Loverso, vice president for product development at Ubisoft's Red Storm Entertainment unit, said Oculus' advancing technology convinced Ubisoft to move beyond some early tests and bring two of its most valuable franchises to VR.

"We think VR really has an opportunity to give core gamers a different immersive experience while also appealing to a wider audience that does not necessarily play these games on a PC or console," she said.

Brian Gomez, executive producer for Jurassic World games at Universal Games and Digital Platforms, said that the coming Jurassic World Aftermath, announced Wednesday, would be the first Jurassic game for home VR. "Jurassic is one of our most gameable franchises, for sure," he said. "If you look at the game verbs that emerge from placing humans and dinosaurs in a tight space, a lot of gaming emerges pretty naturally."

Facebook had previously said that Electronic Arts was bringing the Medal of Honor series to the wired Rift headset. On Wednesday, the company said it was discontinuing the Rift line to focus closely on the Quest 2. The Medal of Honor game, scheduled for December, will be playable on existing Rifts and also the two Quest models when they are plugged into a PC.

In addition to the game franchise announcements, Facebook said that more than 35 VR titles have now generated more than $1 million in revenue each on Oculus. The company also announced a new game called The Climb 2 from Crytek and a Beat Saber music pack powered by the K-pop megagroup BTS.

Facebook's Verdu said that in addition to various technical improvements for the actual headset, Oculus is working on another major innovation for the Quest 2.

"And we'll do our best to make sure it's not out of stock all the time," he said, "which is another breakthrough."

Hybrid work has some distinct advantages when it comes to onboarding.

Photo: LogMeIn

Jo Deal is the chief human resources officer at LogMeIn. She is responsible for leading global people strategy with a focus on attracting, developing and engaging talent.

The desire for change that sprung up during the pandemic resulted in the highest attrition levels in decades and a fierce war for talent playing out in the market. The Great Resignation forced managers to suddenly make hiring their top priority, and recruitment partners became everyone’s best friend as leaders scrambled to replace key roles within their teams.

Keep Reading Show less
Jo Deal
Jo Deal serves as LogMeIn’s Chief Human Resources Officer. She is responsible for leading global people strategy with a focus on attracting, developing and engaging world class talent by expanding LogMeIn’s reputation as one of tech’s most desirable career destinations, and by providing a collaborative learning environment where employees can grow their careers.
Sponsored Content

A CCO’s viewpoint on top enterprise priorities in 2022

The 2022 non-predictions guide to what your enterprise is working on starting this week

As Honeywell’s global chief commercial officer, I am privileged to have the vantage point of seeing the demands, challenges and dynamics that customers across the many sectors we cater to are experiencing and sharing.

This past year has brought upon all businesses and enterprises an unparalleled change and challenge. This was the case at Honeywell, for example, a company with a legacy in innovation and technology for over a century. When I joined the company just months before the pandemic hit we were already in the midst of an intense transformation under the leadership of CEO Darius Adamczyk. This transformation spanned our portfolio and business units. We were already actively working on products and solutions in advanced phases of rollouts that the world has shown a need and demand for pre-pandemic. Those included solutions in edge intelligence, remote operations, quantum computing, warehouse automation, building technologies, safety and health monitoring and of course ESG and climate tech which was based on our exceptional success over the previous decade.

Keep Reading Show less
Jeff Kimbell
Jeff Kimbell is Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Honeywell. In this role, he has broad responsibilities to drive organic growth by enhancing global sales and marketing capabilities. Jeff has nearly three decades of leadership experience. Prior to joining Honeywell in 2019, Jeff served as a Partner in the Transformation Practice at McKinsey & Company, where he worked with companies facing operational and financial challenges and undergoing “good to great” transformations. Before that, he was an Operating Partner at Silver Lake Partners, a global leader in technology and held a similar position at Cerberus Capital LP. Jeff started his career as a Manufacturing Team Manager and Engineering Project Manager at Procter & Gamble before becoming a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and holding executive roles at Dell EMC and Transamerica Corporation. Jeff earned a B.S. in electrical engineering at Kansas State University and an M.B.A. at Dartmouth College.
Entertainment

Peloton’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year

2022 just started, and Peloton has already halted bike production and is talking about mass layoffs. How did the pandemic darling get here?

How did Peloton go from pandemic star to sinking ship? One answer is the classic problem of supply and demand.

Image: Peloton; Protocol

It’s been a hell of a ride for Peloton. The headlines have been practically nonstop, from 2019’s cringey wife ad to 2021’s series of unfortunate “Sex and The City” events. But in 2020, Peloton could do no wrong. The at-home fitness company saw a 172% spike in sales over the course of that year, buoyed by the pandemic forcing wealthy gym-goers to stay home.

But nothing is ever easy or certain when it comes to Peloton. In the past week, Business Insider reported that Peloton is considering laying off 41% of its sales and marketing staff and closing down stores. CNBC learned that the company has hired McKinsey & Co. to help cut costs. And yesterday, CNBC reported that Peloton is temporarily halting production of its bikes. Peloton shares promptly plunged 24%.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs WordPress.com, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool Parse.ly and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Entertainment

Netflix looks to expand gaming with major IP deals, Fortnite-like updates

Remarks made to investors and recent job postings hint at big ambitions for Netflix’s nascent gaming efforts.

Netflix may be taking some cues from games like Fortnite and Apex: Legends for its own video game initiative.

Photo: Cameron Venti/Unsplash

Two months after launching mobile games to all of its members, Netflix is looking to double down on gaming: The company told investors Thursday that it wants to expand its portfolio of games “across both casual and core gaming genres.” Recent job offers suggest that this could include both live services games as well as an expansion to PC and console gaming, and the company's COO hinted at major licensing deals ahead.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Policy

Tim Cook, Ted Cruz and the strange politics of tech antitrust

Democrats and Republicans have found the tech reform debate scrambles traditional party politics — and the Apple CEO and Texas senator have found themselves chatting.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill on Thursday that could remake the tech industry.

Photo: PartTime Portraits/Unsplash

Strange alliances formed ahead of Thursday's vote to advance a key antitrust bill to the Senate floor, with frequent foes like Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Ted Cruz supporting the measure, and prominent Democrats including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pushing back against it.

Ultimately the bill moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 16-6 after a surprisingly speedy debate (at least, speedy for the Senate). Even some of the lawmakers who called for further changes agreed to move the bill forward — a sign that the itch to finally regulate Big Tech after years of congressional inaction is intensifying, even as the issue scrambles traditional party politics in a way that could threaten its final passage.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Latest Stories
Bulletins