Oculus, the Facebook-owned virtual reality (VR) company, was ordered by a jury to pay $500 million in damages to ZeniMax last week, concluding a multi-year lawsuit.
As reported by Business Insider, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified that Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 for nearly $3 billion as a way to be a pioneer in the VR arena. Shortly thereafter, ZeniMax, a media company known for popular video games such as the Doom and Fallout series developed by its subsidiaries, sued Oculus for $2 billion. The case centered around John Carmack, a former ZeniMax employee who left the company to join Oculus in 2014. ZeniMax alleged that Carmack took trade secrets he gained while employed at ZeniMax and provided them to Oculus when he changed companies. Although the jury did not find Oculus guilty of stealing trade secrets, it found many Oculus employees guilty of breaking their ZeniMax non-disclosure agreements, resulting in the $500 million verdict.
Especially in light of this new ruling, it is not clear whether Facebook’s investment in Oculus has paid off for the social media conglomerate. Oculus received enormous attention beginning in 2012, when they debuted a prototype of their VR headset, the Rift. However, the VR field has become increasingly competitive, in part due to the interest sparked by Oculus. While Zuckerburg initially dreamed of selling between 50 to 100 million Rift VR units, Gizmodo reports that 2016 sales numbered just under 355,100. This pales in comparison to sales for the Playstation VR, an accessory for the PS4 video game console, which sold over 2,602,000 units in 2016 alone.
Nonetheless, VR remains an exciting frontier for the entertainment field. Recent movies such as 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot have used virtual reality tie-ins as part of their promotion, and many video games, such as this year’s Resident Evil 7, are integrating VR experiences into their gameplay. With companies such as Samsung entering the VR field, it’s likely that the entertainment industry will increase the amount of VR content in the next few years, despite Oculus’ setback.
Tyler Bittner is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).