First there was the Kickstarter campaign that blew away the $250,000 goal, topping $2.4 million pledged from more than 9,500 private project backers. Now, with several high-profile venture capital firms ponying up an additional $16 million in support, the Oculus Rift inches one step closer toward bringing immersive virtual reality to consumers.
“Oculus began with a single mission: to put players inside the game,” wrote Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey in an official statement. “This investment allows us to deliver immersive and affordable virtual reality to players everywhere.”
Oculus VR, based in Southern California, announced the $16 million investment earlier today. The contributions come from Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, and Formation 8. Representatives from Spark Capital and Matrix Partners will join the virtual reality company’s board of directors.
“There are so few companies that have distinctly nailed the science fiction future that I was reading about 15 years ago,” said Matrix Partners’ Antonio Rodriguez, one of the newly-minted board members. “And for somebody to be able to do that at a price point that the 25-year-old version of me who read Snow Crash would be able to afford: how can you turn that down?”
Much like the modest goal that had been set for their Kickstarter campaign, Oculus VR set an initial target of only $5.5 million for its first round of raising outside capital. Perhaps Oculus VR grossly underestimated how big of a splash their headset would make – especially coming off the buzz it created at last week’s E3 video gaming expo.
“Gaming industry insiders called the company the ‘the belle of the ball’ at E3 this year,” wrote startup news blog PandoDaily. “That’s on the back of a nomination for ‘best hardware of the year’ last year.” Even with all the praise, Oculus Rift headsets are not yet commercially available. The funding might not necessarily speed up the process, either.
As reported by The Verge, Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe plans to use the money to expand the company and hire more employees. It has no plans to sell out to a bigger firm. "We want to stay independent and get to the consumer market, realizing VR the way we really think it needs to be done, and we don't need to take any shortcuts to get there" Iribe told The Verge.
Upgraded high definition models of the Oculus Rift were recently shipped to 7,500 developers. Oculus VR seeks its support in making games that utilize its unique potential – putting gamers “inside” the virtual world.
Several popular games are already Oculus Rift compatible, and with the latest injection of some serious cash, game developers will surely be looking much more closely at the virtual reality headgear.