As sales of VR headsets continue to rise, Facebook has announced a new update which will require all Oculus VR users to sign-in using a Facebook account.
As explained by Oculus:
"After January 1, 2023, we will end support for Oculus accounts. If you choose not to merge your accounts at that time, you can continue using your device, but full functionality will require a Facebook account. [...] All future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account, even if you already have an Oculus account."
Up till now, Oculus users have been able to use a separate Oculus ID - Facebook purchased Oculus back in 2014. But now, in order to better integrate its reporting and tracking systems, Facebook is making Facebook linkage mandatory. As noted above, current Oculus account holders can maintain their existing functionality until January 1st, 2023.
As explained by The Verge, the update is mainly centered around integrating Facebook's regulatory tools and reporting options.
As such, the change makes sense, though some will no doubt see it as another way for Facebook to simply expand its user count and broaden its data tracking process. Which it will also do - but Facebook says that it's not currently looking to track usage data from Oculus. At least, not yet.
But that will come. As noted, Facebook has seen a big increase in demand for its AR headsets in 2020 as people look for new ways to connect and interact amid the COVID-19 lockdowns. Back in April, Facebook reported that it had been struggling to meet demand for new Oculus Quest headsets, while newer advances like hand-tracking and more intuitive VR controls have made it a much more accessible consideration for more people.
And as adoption of VR increases, Facebook will be considering how it can maximize the potential of VR in a business context - i.e. how it can use the medium to show users ads.
Already, Facebook is developing its Horizons VR platform, which will be the social element within the Oculus realm, while it's also working on new business-specific applications, like the capacity to interact with workmates via VR, another avenue to increase take-up.
In a more cynical view, it could also be a step to further link all of Facebook's apps to avoid a potential break-up of the company. If Facebook log-in becomes a central requirement of Oculus, at a system level, Facebook could have more viable grounds to argue against a potential split of its companies, if it were to ever come to that.
In this sense, the more Facebook can interconnect its various platforms the better - which, again, seems like a lesser consideration in this instance. But it may also have played a part.
Facebook has detailed the full implications of the update on the Oculus blog.