Facebook to close Emmy-winning Oculus VR studio

5 May 2017

A scene from 'Henry', the Emmy-winning short VR film. Image: Oculus VR

Is virtual reality finding itself on hard times already? Facebook has decided to close its award-winning Oculus Story Studio.

When Facebook announced it was to buy the ambitious start-up Oculus VR for $2.3bn back in 2014, the acquisition appeared to herald a new age of content for virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Soon after this, Facebook and Oculus VR set up one of the first major VR movie studios: Oculus Story Studio, led by a Disney Pixar veteran.

Last year marked a high-point for the studio as it won the Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Programme for its short, Henry.

However, two years after it was founded, Oculus Story Studio is to be shuttered by Facebook.

In a blog post, Oculus VR’s vice-president of content, Jason Rubin, said it was best to work with content from outside the company, rather than making anything in-house.

“We’re now entering the next chapter of VR development, where new creators enter the market in anticipation of adoption and growth, and we’ve been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem,” he said.

“After careful consideration, we’ve decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production.”

$50m fund created

This, Rubin continued, would allow the company to focus on developing the “unsolved problems” in hardware and software needed for both augmented reality (AR) and VR.

With the studio’s closure, Oculus VR will create a $50m fund to back experimental, non-gaming VR content.

This figure includes the $250m the company promised in 2016 to back content creators in the VR space.

According to Variety, the studio had 50 staff that will now be encouraged to seek other roles within Oculus VR, and all future projects are now cancelled.

This news follows a few months of change at the Facebook subsidiary after it was revealed in December that Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe was effectively being demoted to head up a newly-developed PC VR group for mobile content.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic