Facebook’s Oculus to close its virtual reality film studio

Facebook-owned Oculus is shutting down its award-winning virtual reality film studio and will focus on content produced by filmmakers outside of the tech firm.

Story Studio was launched two years ago and has released animated short films such as “Lost” and “Dear Henry,” which won an Emmy last year.

“We’ve been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem. After careful consideration, we’ve decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production. As part of that shift, we’ll be winding down Story Studio,” said Jason Rubin, Oculus’ vice president of content, in a blog post Thursday announcing the changes.

The tech firm plans to spend an additional $250 million to fund virtual reality content from developers worldwide, he said. A total of $50 million from that funding would go toward virtual reality content that aren’t games.

“Our goal is to inspire creators across all mediums and genres—filmmakers, musicians, painters, writers, cartoonists, and more—to bring their VR ideas to life,” he wrote.

The studio’s 50 staffers are encouraged to apply for jobs within Oculus but all ongoing projects have been shut down, Variety reported.

Facebook purchased Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion and shelled out another $1 billion for employee retention bonuses and other deals.

But the virtual reality headset maker is facing stiff competition from other companies including PlayStation and HTC. It initially delayed shipments of its virtual reality headsets and has been shutting down hundreds of its virtual reality demo stations at U.S. Best Buy stores.

Oculus has also encountered legal troubles.

In February, Oculus was ordered to pay $500 million after losing a lawsuit against game-development firm ZeniMax, which alleged that the virtual reality headset was created with stolen technology. A Texas jury found that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey failed to comply with a nondisclosure agreement and the company infringed on copyright.

Facebook said in March that Luckey was leaving the tech firm but did not say why. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe also stepped down from his job to head a new division within the company focused on virtual reality for personal computers.

Hugo Barra, who left a job at Chinese phone maker Xiaomi. is currently leading Facebook’s virtual reality efforts, including the Oculus team.

Photo: Peter Mason tries the Oculus virtual reality headset at the Game Developers Conference 2014 in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

 

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