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John Carmack speaks up about Facebook buying Oculus VR

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

John Carmack, the longtime id Software programmer who left the studio he founded to join Oculus VR, said it was inevitable that large corporations — "Titans," in his words — would make a significant move into virtual reality, as Facebook did this week when it acquired Oculus for $2 billion.

"The fairly rapid involvement of the Titans is inevitable, and the real question is how deeply to partner with, and who," Carmack, Oculus VR's chief technology officer, said in reply to a blog post about the deal written by the chiptune musician Peter Berkman. "Honestly, I wasn't expecting Facebook (or this soon)."

It is Carmack's first comment on the deal since it was announced Tuesday. "I wasn't personally involved in any of the negotiations — I spent an afternoon talking technology with [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg, and the next week I find out that he bought Oculus."

Oculus VR started with $2.5 million in Kickstarter donations though at the end of last year it raised some $75 million in venture capital. Its origin as a crowdfunded project led to intense criticism, some of it from donors who felt that it had been looking to be an acquisition target instead of a pioneer in a new field.

Carmack addressed that concern: "There is a case to be made for being like Valve, and trying to build a new VR ecosystem from the ground up," he wrote. "This is probably what most of the passionate fans wanted to see. The difference is that, for years, the industry thought Valve was nuts, and they had the field to themselves. Valve deserves all their success for having the vision and perseverance to see it through to the current state."

However, Carmack said, virtual reality's industry appeal is not the kind of slow burn that digital distribution was at the time. "VR won't be like that. The experience is too obviously powerful, and it makes converts on contacts," Carmack said, and thus the "Titans" like Facebook come into the picture.

Carmack went on to say that "I do have reason to believe they [Facebook] get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen.

"You don't make a commitment like they just did on a whim."

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