Oculus is shutting down its Story Studio, the Facebook-owned company announced on Thursday. Established in early 2015 with the goal of producing premium virtual reality (VR) content for the Rift and other head-mounted displays, the studio will be closed as part of the company's efforts to redirect its content budget to third-party developers interested in creating VR experiences, the firm's Vice President of Content Jason Rubin said. The first direct result of Story Studio's closure will be $50 million that Oculus is planning to use to fund independent developers that are creating "experiential" content that isn't directly related to gaming. In the long run, the shutdown of the company's Story Studio will likely lead to many more investments into third-party studios as the aforementioned figure will be provided by the firm's $250 million fund established for both gaming and other VR startups.
In addition to financial injections, the Facebook-owned company will also offer a vast library of resources to developers looking to become a part of the VR industry, Oculus said, implying how that initiative will also be funded from the savings incurred by closing Story Studio. The division's existing workforce may be transferred to some other unit of the company or leave in pursuit of other goals, a company's spokesperson said, without clarifying on whether Oculus has a defined plan for taking care of Story Studio's employees. The closure of the company's filmmaking unit is somewhat surprising in light of the fact that all three VR shorts Story Studio created in its two-year lifespan — Lost, Dear Angelica, and the Emmy Award-winning Henry — were praised by both critics and consumers alike. Given the official reasoning behind the decision to shut down Story Studio, it's possible that the division's efforts didn't seem profitable to management in the long run and likely weren't commercially successful so far.
While Oculus is far from being strapped for cash, the company's decision to shut down Story Studio may have been influenced by the fact that it was recently hit with a $500 million fine it was ordered to pay to ZeniMax for copyright infringement, non-disclosure agreement violation, and false designation. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey left the company in the aftermath of that verdict, though it's currently unclear whether his departure was directly prompted by the legal dispute with ZeniMax.