I distinctly remember having lunch in New York in May 2007 when Facebook announced F8 and the opening of their platform. It was one of these epiphany moments that quickly translate into opportunity. I was working in advertising at the time and got to meet the fine folks at Buddymedia and other pioneers.
When Mark Zuckerberg announced the Oculus acquisition on March 25, I had a similar epiphany, that FB was making a bet that entertainment, most of which is now online or streamed, will accelerate its gamification and that the 2 experiences will merge. This merging of experiences will accelerate yet another friction between entertainment and tech, rife with positive repercussions. I've written on the historical perspective of this creative tension here.
"It's ironic, then, that just as the Internet and TV have conspired to devastate the old business models of music and movies, they're also come together to create new business models to save them. A new report from Moffett Nathanson estimates that since 2010, streaming (e.g.: Netflix and Hulu) has gone from zilch to a $3 billion business, while DVDs, which many hoped would rescue the movie industry, have declined sharply in the same period."
We've seen very successful movie adaptations of video games e.g Resident Evil by studios, in turn game developers are jumping in themselves.
So where is Oculus headed ? As Pete Rojas eloquently recapped, it's "computing's next big reset". Pete makes a strong point that, just like mobile and perhaps more significantly touchscreen, VR has the potential to change how we interact with data. The entertainment/gaming potential of this new interaction mode is self-evident.
My personal take is that VR has the potential to be bigger than the gaming "niche" (not such a niche anymore btw). I foresee that VR helmets, coupled with advances in 3D will usher in 3D holographic projection and that we haven't yet seen true "immersive" entertainment yet.
What this means for entertainment creators is near limitless boundaries in their craft, and a possible re-invention of storytelling techniques to fit within a new paradigm where the spectator is no longer one but an active participant in the story. We've all been bathed in the scifi tropes of Johnny Mnemonic et al and can see the potential. This re-invention is already underway with multiplatform projects like Defiance, conceived as a tv show and a game at the outset.
We're living in "the golden age of tv", in which the barriers between what used to be considered proper for the silver screen and for the tube have come down and where Netflix and HBO allow creators to produce 15-hour long films, in a way 21st century versions of Dickensian or Balzacian frescoes. This freedom allows characters to truly come to life in a meaningful way. Could House of Cards have been conceived as a mere 120min piece ?
If you combine this creative freedom with the potential of VR, where viewers are no longer 2D spectators of Frank Underwood's machinations, you get a gamified entertainment experience that won't be limited to "shoot'em up" environments.
How fast will this shift occur ? My response is the following: was it clear to the entertainment business that Netflix was rewriting the rules when they greenlit House of Cards in 2011 ? It was to a few of us, not necessarily the ones sitting atop the pyramid though (that's another story for another day).
In a previous post I wrote "Storytelling and technology have been unruly partners for more than 100 years, with a never ending cycle of new tech challenging the entrenched interests of incumbent players. When's the next battle?"
My answer: Game on.