Facebook recently sold its immersive 3D sculpting tool, Oculus Medium, to Adobe. Medium was created by tech company Oculus in 2016 after it got acquired by Facebook in 2014. While some might wonder if Facebook’s vision for VR has changed, many industry players Marketing spoke to say the fact is, Facebook’s core vision remains in place and consumers should not be distracted or confused by the acquisitions or sell-offs it carries out.
Facebook is known to compete on multiple fronts of future software, from media to AI, and in this instance, Medium might not be able to fit into its core vision. While the interest of turning game developers and gaming enthusiasts to be a key constituent of Facebook users is a good strategic idea, there are other cost-effective ways to achieve that than through VR creative software. Following the sale, however, what is important is to ensure that Medium’s fan base of developers, VR enthusiasts, and creatives are shown plenty attention so they continue to maintain a keen interest and are excited about a future roadmap.
On a whole, industry players Marketing spoke to concur that the sale of Medium makes sense for both Facebook and Adobe. But contrary to popular opinion, Gartner’s senior principal analyst Tuong Nguyen however said the implications for Facebook is unclear. On the one hand, [the sale] makes sense because Facebook is best positioned to create the underlying platform for VR experiences, rather than driving individual content. On the other hand, as a pioneer in the space, it needs to evangelise and support the market in a number of ways, which currently includes software and content. Nguyen added:
The market is gradually maturing and Facebook is responding by being more strategic and selective in terms of its VR focus and investment.
But defending the move Mirum Indonesia’s MD Daniel Hagmeijer said there is a huge potential in using Oculus for gaming and Facebook would have limited use for the artistic tools that Medium offers. With Adobe, Hagmeijer said Medium has probably found a better home, to serve a better audience. “For Adobe, it now becomes essential to seamlessly integrate the offering into the creative suite, and prove to the world that there are additional benefits for using VR to do work that might just as easily be done with traditional tools like styluses,” he explained.
Facebook is about reaching and connecting as many people as possible. This particular offering from Oculus was never meant for the masses.
Also weighing in on the conversation is Serm Teck Choon, Malaysia country head and head of product, CtrlShift, and president, Malaysian Digital Association, who said the sale make sense as Adobe has access to designer and creator communities globally unlike Facebook.
Serm added that Facebook’s goal is to grow the Oculus VR and gaming system and the sale will help the company leverage its strengths to push the related developments. Facebook also recently acquired Beat Games, the developer of popular VR rhythm game Beat Saber, and folded it under Oculus Studios, indicating that it is scaling up its gaming VR efforts. He added:
Whether VR or AR will become a big hit is still too early to tell, but focusing on gaming is the right strategy for Facebook to drive short term gain and success.
What also needs to now be key is that the VR assets built using Medium need to now need to be in a unit that is prevalent, useful, and beneficial for companies and consumers. The content of it should ideally be applied to various aspects such as marketing, gaming, 3D printing, and gamification.
A creative fit
Entropia’s partner, Neeraj Gulati said there is a clear strategic fit for Medium in Adobe’s flagship suite of software. The first thing that comes to mind when someone says “Adobe” is its software built for creatives and graphics, Gulati explained. Adobe specialises in turning complex softwares into an abysmal creative canvas for the creative artist, who are able to monetise their creative expression with clients and agencies. On the other hand, Facebook model is not designed to be able to monetise a product with limited scale. Instead, it benefits from making products that have mass adoption and are simple for end users such as stickers, filters, and 3D photos.
“This is a great exchange of hands which will make VR more mainstream. We are convinced that the next evolution of storytelling and marketing is coming from mixed reality and this is a great step in that direction,” he said.
Besides Medium being a strategic fit for Adobe, the sale also brings about accessibility and the opportunities it could creative for “seamlessly expanding” agencies’ and companies’ creative outputs, Iris’ deputy creative director, Yashas Mitta, said. According to Mitta, the sale also signals that Facebook is not too happy with the results of its ambitious plan of “getting a billion people into VR”, as said previously by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
When looking at this move in isolation, one might merely see it as Facebook selling Medium. However if one puts things into perspective, they will realise where Adobe is investing heavily in – Adobe Aero, Dimensions, and its acquisition of Substance Painter earlier in 2019. “3D and immersive content creation such as AR and VR, over the years, have ushered beyond the traditional gaming and movie environments and into the workflows of creatives of various sorts. That means, Adobe’s users have been finding tools beyond their creative suite,” he said, adding:
So whether it is Substance painter or Oculus Medium, Adobe is simply future proofing its ecosystem.
Also like most other tech companies, Adobe has moved into subscription models. Whether Medium will be bundled into a creative suite or remain separate like Substance Painter is to be seen. However, Mitta said if Adobe plays its cards right by integrating immersive tools with their access and engagement of the global creative community, consumers would finally see significant gain in realising Zuckerberg’s ambition of getting a billion people into VR.