Facebook Shutters Award-Winning Oculus VR Movie Studio

Critics had a lot of good things to say about Henry, a short film based around the first original character designed for virtual reality. The protagonist is a less-than-cuddly hedgehog who is lonely and in search of friendship, and he captured the hearts of viewers. Henry ended up winning an Emmy award for Outstanding Original Interactive Program, though despite its success and that of other projects, Oculus has decided to shut down the studio that was pioneering these efforts.

This will not happen overnight. Oculus said it is amidst a shift in which it is "winding down Story Studio," which it created two years ago to showcase what VR is capable of. The hope from Oculus was that Story Studio and its creations would inspire traditional filmmakers and other storytellers to look at VR as a serious vehicle for their ideas, and to ultimately bring to life unique experiences in VR.

Image Source: Story Studio (Oculus)

That effort initially entailed focusing on internal content creation as a sort of proof of concept. However, Oculus feels it now has the attention of filmmakers, and so it will shut down its own studio and focus its efforts on external production.

"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 attention towards exciting but unsolved problems in AR and VR hardware and software," Oculus stated in a blog post.

Putting its money where it's virtual mouth is, Oculus notes that it committed to $250 million in funding last year for VR content from developers all over the world. The money is intended for a mix of content, though Oculus says it has earmarked $50 million of its promised funding exclusively for non-gaming, experiential VR content.

"This money will go directly to artists to help jump start the most innovative and groundbreaking ideas," Oculus added.

It is a bit of a bummer that Oculus does not feel it has the resources to do both, to maintain its own VR film studio and work with partners externally, especially since it's owned by Facebook. But in the absence of Story Studio, the three short films it created (Henry, Dear Angelica, and Lost) will live on and continue to be available in the Oculus Store.

Thumbnail Image Source: Story Studio (Oculus)