Facebook dropped $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift headset. That's a huge pile of money by any standard, but in an earnings call following the release of Facebook's latest quarterly financial report, CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he has very big expectations.
"It needs to reach a very large sale, 50 million to 100 million units, before it will really be a very meaningful thing as a computing platform," Zuckerberg said in response to a question about the company's plans for the Oculus hardware, transcribed by Seeking Alpha.
"I do think it's going to take a bunch of years to get there. Maybe—I don’t know, it's hard to predict exactly, but I don't think it's going to get to 50 million or 100 million units in the next few years. So that will take a few cycles of the device to get there and that's kind of what I'm talking about," he continued. "And then when you get to that scale, that's when it starts to be interesting as a business in terms of developing out the ecosystem."
Can it happen? The Rift as it stands is very much a niche device, and success to the extent that Zuckerberg envisions will obviously require it to catch on in areas well beyond just gaming. Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe acknowledged that fact back in May, when he said that restricting the device to gaming could limit its user base to "only 10, 20, or 50 million" people, and Zuckerberg echoed Iribe's hopes of ultimately achieving a billion users connected through the device.
"Over a five year time frame, we have a number of services, which we think are well on their way to reaching one billion people. Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Search are a number of them. And once we get to that scale, then we think that they will start to become meaningful businesses in their own right," he said. "And I think that the right way to think about that, as I've tried to say repeatedly on these calls is, not that we're going to try to monetize them very aggressively in the next year or two, because I really think for each of those categories, the right strategy is to first focus on connecting one billion plus people and reaching the full potential before very aggressively turning them into businesses."