Facebook is bringing down the final curtain on its Oculus unit’s film studio that was launched two years ago. Story Studio was launched with much aplomb, boasting talent from Pixar and the world of video games.
Today, the unit’s VP of Content, Jason Rubin, announced in a blog post that Oculus is still “still absolutely committed to growing the VR film and creative content ecosystem,” adding that it will put up a $50 million fund for non-gaming VR content creators.
Story Studio was launched in January 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival, and produced some award-winning VR content during its short two years in existence. “Lost” was the first one, which they showed at the launch during the Sundance Festival. “Henry”, a short VR film, actually won an Emmy Award in the Original Interactive Programming category in 2016. This year, Story Studio featured its illustrated mother-daughter story, “Dear Angelica.”
We don’t know exactly why they’ve shuttered Story Studio, especially after an Emmy accolade, but there’s definitely more work to be done on VR content, and bringing it to mainstream markets. There’s no shortage of VR hardware, now that nearly every PC maker and their uncle has got a $300-dollar VR headset, but the content side is sorely lacking.
Similar to the smartphone environment, the content (apps in the case of smartphones) is what drives device sales and consumer demand. The more content there is for consumption, the more users will be likely to invest in hardware. That’s what Oculus’ Story Studio was created for, and that’s what it will continue doing, but only in terms of supporting VR content creators rather than creating content on its own.
Oculus, meanwhile, is still embroiled in legal issues with ZeniMax Media Inc., which has accused Oculus – and, thereby, it’s parent company, Facebook – of infringing on copyright software code. A jury awarded ZeniMax $500 million this February, but Oculus has asked for another trial. We’ll have to see how that goes.
Before that, Oculus lost its CEO, Brendan Iribe, and, after the trial, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, creators of the first Oculus headset prototype, left the company under a cloud. With Story Studio now gone, it’s anyone’s guess what Facebook’s next move in the VR space will be.