Immediately after Facebook acquired Oculus VR in 2014, some developers expressed concern that the social media giant would fully absorb the pioneering virtual reality company, eliminating its independent identity. Six years later, Facebook is taking further steps in that direction as it prepares to sunset Oculus accounts and start requiring new VR headset customers to become Facebook users.
The official announcement positions the impending changes as a “single way to log into Oculus and unlock social features,” consisting of two phases. Starting in October 2020, new Oculus device users will need to log in with a Facebook account, and existing Oculus device users will have two years to continue accessing their Oculus accounts. During that time, they can choose to merge their Oculus and Facebook accounts, or see what happens once Oculus account support officially ends.
After January 1, 2023, Oculus users will still be able to use current-generation devices without Facebook accounts, but with the knowledge that some apps and games might not work fully, or at all. “All future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account,” the company adds, “even if you already have an Oculus account.” As a new Oculus Quest S model is expected to hit stores this fall, today’s news is likely setting the stage for the Facebook account mandate to begin there.
The Facebook/Oculus account distinction might be lost on some users, as nearly 70% of U.S. adults are estimated to use Facebook, with similarly significant percentages in other countries around the world — much higher than the population fractions with Oculus VR headsets. But as Facebook has continued to court controversy over its business and information gathering practices, a significant minority of users have said no to the social network while continuing to use Oculus hardware. Some openly feared having VR data shared with Facebook to empower ads or other services, a process Facebook started late last year. Going further with an all but mandatory account merger, complete with acceptance of Facebook’s data practices, may push Oculus users to other platforms.
On the other hand, Facebook is pushing the new policy as a positive for users who are interested in leveraging the larger company’s social features, including the option to enjoy group experiences in Horizon, Venues, and third-party apps. The company also says it will blend Oculus’s Code of Conduct into Facebook’s Community Standards, creating “a more consistent way to report bad behavior, hold people accountable, and help create a more welcoming environment across our platforms.”