Oculus is shutting the doors of its Film Studio to divert its attention from supporting the external content market, said the social networking firm on Thursday. In January 2015, Facebook’s VR film studio debuted at the Sundance Film Festival with hires from large entertainment companies and the video game world.
Oculus to focus more on non-gaming VR content
In a blog post, Jason Rubin, Oculus’ vice president of content, said that Oculus will allocate $50 million to fund creators of non-gaming VR content. Rubin said that Facebook’s virtual reality unit, which makes the VR headsets Rift and Gear VR, is still “absolutely committed to growing the VR film and creative content ecosystem.” An Oculus spokesperson said the closure of the film studio was effective Thursday.
Rubin also said that the company will not be making in-house VR shorts and animations anymore but will rather support more external production. He added that this money will go directly to the artists to “jumpstart the most innovative and groundbreaking VR ideas….Our goal is to inspire creators across all mediums and genres—filmmakers, musicians, painters, writers, cartoonists, and more—to bring their VR ideas to life.”
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Oculus, which has hires from Oscar-winning animation company Pixar, created the film studio to assist to accelerate the new virtual reality industry by creating its own virtual reality films and making the technology more appealing beyond just video games. So far, virtual reality has been unsuccessful in gaining a large following even after the initial hype. This is mostly because of lack of compelling content and the requirement of costly headsets to watch the films, notes Fortune.
According to the analyst, sales of VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift are slower than expected. Both the Rift and the Vive went on sale a year ago.
Questions about Facebook’s virtual reality ambitions
In 2014, Facebook paid over $3 billion to buy Oculus and retain its employees. Facebook’s virtual reality unit debuted its first short film Lost at Sundance two years ago. The film was about an animated mechanical creature in a forest. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that the technology providing a 360-degree panoramic view with the use of headsets will become a part of daily life for billions of people.
However, Facebook’s virtual reality ambitions have been threatened by a lawsuit from ZeniMax Media, a video game publisher that accused the tech giant and its VR unit of infringing upon its copyrighted software code. In February, a jury awarded $500 million in damages in ZeniMax’s favor. Oculus has requested a new trial.
Another threat is rivals. Sony and Vive, a unit of HTC Corp, are racing to bring VR products to a mass audience as well.
Since last year, Oculus has gone through several management changes, notes Business Insider. In December, Brendan Iribe stepped down as chief executive officer, saying that he was going to lead the PC division of Oculus. Further, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey parted ways with the tech giant in March.