When Facebook acquired Oculus, who was the forerunner in Virtual Reality at the time, people faced a complicated dilemma. Largely, this is because the company sometimes causes feelings of distrust or, worse, contempt in some people. Since that time, the issue has become even more complicated and now that they plan on expanding the gaming side of their brand to include broadcasting and cloud gaming, we have to more seriously ask ourselves what kind of future is there for Facebook in gaming and do we even want them around?
Invariably, there are people who will not care. Then there are some who feel as though it is important for gamers to care about precisely this kind of thing. The reasons are many. For starters, Facebook is a company that collects a lot of data which can then be used for advertisement. This advertisement isn’t only to sell products, though. It’s also to sell ideas and the more a company knows about people, the better they can target or, effectively, “influence” them. For a few years now, we’ve seen people attempt to hold Facebook responsible for the way they, as a platform, behave. With the data we give them, they wield and distribute a lot of power.
Virtual reality headsets, like the Oculus, also allow them to collect a wealth of new data about our physical movements in virtual reality spaces. Volunteering this data is becoming hard to opt out of, and recent developments on that front are starting to appear less consumer friendly than originally expected. The company recently announced that it would eventually require Facebook accounts for all of its headsets. Additionally, it was recently discovered that a user who deletes their Facebook account will also lose their app purchases and achievements. It’s a move that makes it harder for users to walk away from Facebook during a time that the company should be increasingly held to higher standards.
It is also quite possible that people do not want their gaming lives and their personal lives to be directly linked. And this is just an example of what happens when Facebook owns a very optional gaming product that already has strong competition. It’s scary to think what might happen if they were to exhibit similar practices with more important technology.
And now, with cloud-based gaming, they might just gain an even larger foothold in the gaming industry. There’s no definite way of telling what will happen, but we do know we have an opportunity to boycott these products and tell them they’re not welcome so long as their practices continue. They’re in no way obligated to care about what is best for people, but they might care about what is viable for them as a business. From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t seem like they are can bring much good to gaming. Sure, they have a ton of money to develop products, but its users are the ones paying the cost if they continue to prove that they can’t be trusted. The onus is on them to earn the trust of gamers, and promise to make things better rather than worse, before they are given a foothold in gaming.