Facebook buying virtual reality firm Oculus VR for $2 billion
When you give money to support a project on Kickstarter, does it make you a donator or an investor ? That was the question when the news of Facebook buying Oculus came out.
Oculus began it’s adventure as a small group of developers in a garage, with a bright idea. They post their idea on Kickstarter, hoping to crowdfund the 250.000$ the developer needs to start their project of a virtual reality headset.
9522 backers believed in them. This is as many people who won’t get a cent from the 2 billion dollars Facebook spent to buy Oculus.
Funding a project on Kickstarter is a donation. It is not an investment. When you give money to a project on Kickstarter, you have no legal recourse if the project stays on hold and never gets to hit the market. You are thanked by the team of the project, which rewards you by pre-selling you the product, or by giving a full access, these kind of things. You’re not part of the company, you’re not a shareholder. You’re a donator.
Does it mean that you’re not allowed to have your word on the path chosen by the company you partially funded?
When the news spread, backers couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Reactions went from disgust to a feeling of betrayal.
Even if it was implicit, backers had the feeling that Oculus owed them. If Oculus was so successful, it was thanks to the support of the many backers.
For some, this decision to become a part of Facebook was a sell-out for two reasons:
First, because selling a company that was the face of innovation and ambition, a part of the future and the dream of little developers with ambition, was a shame.
Second, because the buyer was Facebook, symbol of greed, big money and levelling down of mentalities. Facebook has the reputation of buying small successful little companies to incorporate them in its big Facebook mall. People felt like they were backing Facebook.
The dream of video games in virtual reality at home turned into the perspective of getting Candy Crush requests in 3D. Even Notch, founder of Mojang and creator of the world-famous game Minecraft, canceled his scheduled deal with Oculus after the news came out, because “Facebook creeps [him] out”.
This story is a reminder that when you back a project on Kickstarter, you’re simply donating, not investing. You can’t tell where the company will end its course.
Disappointed backers of Oculus can still turn themselves to Sony’s Morpheus, who certainly benefits from that change in the competition.