To the untrained eye, Mark Zuckerberg’s recent purchase of Oculus VR might seem a frivolous $2 billion dollar expenditure. After all, virtual reality is incredibly cool and why shouldn’t Zuckerberg, one of the coolest CEOs on the planet, want a piece of that? Zuckerberg is no fool, though, and this was just not a casual purchase so he could put another toy in his arsenal. He ultimately is looking at Facebook as the ultimate platform for the entire planet.
1 in 7 people access Facebook from one month to the next, and if Facebook wants to see that number climb, it has to conquer emerging markets, which is why it bought upstart companies like Oculus VR and WhatsApp before that. By taking advantage of the opportunities these companies offer, Facebook can increase the leverage it offers in the world of social media and provide its users with more accessibility than it ever dreamed possible. The purchase of Oculus VR only ups the ante for Facebook.
Zuckerberg has made it clear that he envisions a world where Internet.org can help improve accessibility to communications resources for everyone. He has teamed with six telecoms companies to eventually make this happen, and the goal is to have a world where mobile telephone services are available for a reasonable price for all.
With the communications market cornered – thanks to his WhatsApp purchase – Zuckerberg can turn his attention to gaming. He has admitted in a previous interview that 40 percent of an individual’s time is generally spent on social media while another 40 percent of the time is on gaming. What could be better for gamers than a game where they can really be a part of the action? Facebook’s deep pockets will go a long way towards helping the virtual reality startup become a mass market thrill.
Although Facebook is one of the biggest names in the world, and its clout will no doubt propel Oculus VR ever higher, marketers need to be careful in how they approach the collaboration between the two companies. It does not mean that marketers will be coming up with new ways to throw every possible advertisement in front of users, and marketers shouldn’t. Users will become thoroughly fed up with marketers who choose to use virtual reality as another way to give society more ads and less screen time for society’s favorite pastimes.
Marketers need to explore the innovation that Facebook, WhatsApp and Oculus VR has brought to the table and determine how best to leverage it. Gone are the days where billboards and Facebook Pages are going to be the only things that will work to entice viewers. There has to be more, and Oculus may just be the catalyst for change – if marketers are careful.