In a surprise announcement, Facebook is announcing today that it will be shuttering Oculus Story Studio.
Story Studio is the team within Oculus that focused on the creation of narrative driven virtual reality content like the emmy award winning Henry, emotionally moving story Dear Angelica and breakout content like Lost. Story Studio is also the creator of Quill — a VR artistic creation platform similar to Google’s Tilt Brush.
According to a blog post today penned by Oculus’ VP of Content Jason Rubin, the closure of Story Studio is happening so that the team can focus on its established pattern of investing in the work of outside studios. Rubin’s previous job was heading up Oculus Studios proper, which has doled out a whopping $250 million to team’s ranging from indie startups to established brands like Insomniac.
Facebook has pledged to spend at least another $250 million on content development in the coming years and, according to Rubin’s post, $50 million of that will now be devoted to “exclusively fund non-gaming, experiential VR content. This money will go directly to artists to help jumpstart the most innovative and groundbreaking VR ideas.”
Much like the broader $250 million investment figure, his $50 million is viewed by Facebook as a floor not a ceiling and the company is willing to spend more than this on the right projects.
Rubin will be the one heading up the distribution of these funds and the recruitment of new, artistically minded developers to the Oculus platform. Rubin writes:
“Now that a large community of filmmakers and developers are committed to the narrative VR art form, we’re going to focus on funding and supporting their content. This helps us turn our internal research, development, and focus towards exciting but unsolved problems in AR and VR hardware and software.
…Lost,Henry, Dear Angelica, and Quill set the foundation upon which VR storytelling sits today. The Story Studio team are pioneers in VR development and their groundbreaking works will continue to be available on the Oculus Store. Story Studio did an incredible job sharing their behind the scenes tips and techniques with the community—from how to preserve rich colors in VR film to open sourcing the Unreal Engine project and assets for Henry—and we’ll continue to make this information available to developers.
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. There are a lot of awesome things about to be made and we can’t wait to see them!”
The impacted employees of Story Studio will reportedly have the option of either leaving the company to pursue new opportunities in the creative community, or applying for new jobs within Facebook. Oculus representatives state that Facebook is going to be working closely with these people to help them find new employment but that nothing is guaranteed. This process will be applied to everyone including the senior management of Story Studio — a group that includes former Pixar employees Maxwell Plank and Saschka Unseld.
Story Studios’ more complex applications like Quill will continue to be available and maintained in the Oculus Store and its VR films (Lost, Henry, and Dear Angelica) will continue to be downloadable there as well. However, the future of Talking With Ghosts — a Story Studio project that was announced but not yet released — is currently ambiguous with Facebook promising updates over the next few months.
The Story Studio team built some of the most visually exciting and technically progressive VR experiences we’ve ever seen. We want to wish them all the best of luck in their future pursuits.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the division as Oculus Story Studios; it has since been corrected.