Minecraft Creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson Angry About Facebook Buying Oculus

Whenever a cool startup is bought by an established company social media goes crazy. This time the angriest bird is the man behind one of the most successful games on the market.

Mar 26, 2014 at 2:39PM

A few hours after it was announced that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) would be buying virtual reality headset maker Oculus, the creator of one of the most popular games on the market took to Twitter to express his displeasure with the deal.

Minecraft creator Markus Persson, who tweets under @notch, posted "We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just canceled that deal. Facebook creeps me out." 

That's a pretty harsh reaction to a deal in which Facebook went out of its way to say it will allow Oculus to maintain its headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and continue development of the Oculus Rift, its virtual reality gaming headset. 

While it may be harsher and higher-profile given that it's coming from the creator of a game that not only has topped 100 million players  but has crossed into pop culture on T-shirts, LEGO sets, and other product tie-ins, Persson's feelings were echoed by many in the gaming community.

What is Oculus and where did it come from?

The rise of Oculus has been a grassroots success story not unlike Facebook's, though perhaps without the backstabbing, intrigue, and identical twins. The company was founded by Palmer Luckey, a boyish-looking now 21-year-old genius who describes himself as a "virtual reality enthusiast and hardware geek" (which also seems pretty similar to Facebook's creation story). Luckey, with his name that sounds like the lead character in a movie pitched as "Indiana Jones in space," took his idea for a virtual reality headset to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and promptly raised $2.4 million.

The company has yet to release a consumer product, but it has sold 75,000 of its kits for developers and has become one of the perceived leaders in the emerging immersive gaming space.  And while the gaming community -- at least part of it -- is outraged at the move, Oculus' management posted a note to the company website explaining why they took the deal.

At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in Internet access for the world, and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we're culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.

More importantly Oculus as a stand-alone company -- no matter how innovative it was -- had a huge risk of failure. Developing a virtual reality platform costs money, marketing the technology takes even more, and keeping ahead of the competition drains capital too. There have been countless geniuses with hot ideas who fail. Sometimes it's as simple as having the right product at the wrong time.

As part of Facebook the Oculus team has access to near-limitless resources, a huge marketing platform, and a ready customer for the technology. Joining Facebook may harm the company's purity in the eyes of certain gamers, but it gives its eventual products a much better shot at being more than a footnote to someone else's story.

Why did Minecraft's creator react this way?

After his Twitter post Persson added an entry to his blog that explained his love for what Oculus had done -- finally make a virtual reality device that worked -- and his disdain for Facebook. Persson noted that he had donated to the Oculus Kickstarter at the top level, owned its developer kit prototype, and had visited the company's office (one of the Kickstarter perks). His blog post expressed his admiration for the bootstrap methods Oculus used to get where it is, while saving time to express his lack of respect for Facebook.

Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.

Don't get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend's avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you're actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?

But I don't want to work with social, I want to work with games.

I'm sure people in the gaming world will salute Persson's stance, but he sounds like someone who stops liking a band when it has a hit because it "sold out." Facebook has not said Oculus should stop working on games or that the technology will solely be used for social purposes. Is it not possible that under Facebook Oculus will have more money for development and can pursue a gaming path along with other uses for the technology?

Minecraft fans won't get to be part of that because Persson went all indie rock and took his ball and went home without giving Facebook -- which has been hands off with other acquisitions -- a chance to show what it would do.

Persson is not alone in his dislike of the Facebook deal -- technology website Kotaku posted a lengthy article of gamers reacting negatively.

Mark Zuckerberg is not the devil

Somehow creative genius wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg, who started his company in a dorm room and inexplicably turned into one of the top companies in the world, no longer has any credibility with the geek world because he figured out how to make money. Facebook's somehow not pure anymore because the company's innovations no longer take place due to passion, so the story goes. 

That might be true. The history of cool start-ups being ruined by the giant companies that buy them is a long one. But just because that has happened does not mean it's going to happen here. Facebook owning Oculus may kill some of the romance, but you can't fund where Oculus needs to go -- even just for gaming -- on Kickstarter alone. Would Persson feel more comfortable if some faceless venture capital company provided the money behind immersive virtual reality gaming? Those guys actually have only one goal -- making money -- while Zuckerberg and Facebook have a history of being socially conscious.

Facebook could ruin Oculus and suck the soul out of a cool idea. It could also give the company the resources it needs, marketing might, and an actual shot at success. Zuckerberg might not be the cool nerd eating ramen noodles and living whatever fantasy life Persson has romanticized, but I'm guessing he -- or at least the people who now work for him -- would have delivered a pretty cool virtual reality Minecraft.  

6 stock picks poised for incredible growth

Not long ago, Facebook was the disruptive underdog. Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner has twice recommended the company to members and those who followed his advice are up well over 100%. Time and time again, David has found that type of winning stock idea, with stock returns like 926%, 2,239%, and 4,371%. In fact, just recently one of his favorite stocks became a 100-bagger. And he's ready to do it again. You can uncover his scientific approach to crushing the market and his carefully chosen six picks for ultimate growth instantly, because he's making this premium report free for you today. Click here now for access.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He is happy when the indie bands he likes actually make some money. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers