Facebook’s award winning Oculus virtual reality studio is being shut down, but the social network has also revealed that 5% of its staff are working on VR projects.
Oculus launched “Story Studio” in early 2015, when it also premiered “Lost” as the studio’s first narrative piece.
In 2016, Story Studio followed up with “Henry” an animated VR short about a hedgehog that won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program later that year.
It’s ambitious project “Dear Angelica,” came out earlier this year, a VR film that was animated entirely within VR itself and that featured Geena Davis voicing one of the two main characters.
However Facebook announced Thursday afternoon that the operation is now being shut down. The studio’s 50 staffers are encouraged to apply for new jobs within Oculus, but all ongoing projects of the studio are being cancelled.
“We’ve been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem,” said Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin in a blog post. “After careful consideration, we’ve decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production. As part of that shift, we’ll be winding down Story Studio.”
All three films will continue to be available on the Oculus Store, Rubin said Thursday.
For “Dear Angelica,” the Story Studio team also developed an entire authoring tool called Quill that allows animators to draw 3-D scenes while wearing a headset and that has been available for free on the Oculus Store.
Quill could be open sourced, according to a spokesperson, but Oculus is not going to provide any active support for it anymore.
It said the closure of the studio did not mean it was abandoning movies and films made for VR. The company has set up a $50m (£39m) fund to pay for non-game content.
“We’re still absolutely committed to growing the VR film and creative content ecosystem,” said Rubin. The Oculus division of Facebook would also continue to develop software and hardware to help creators working with VR, he said.
Facebook did not say why he left but the departure came shortly after Oculus lost a $500m (£387m) court case against media firm Zenimax which said it stole trade secrets.
In other news, words spoken by Oculus team’s head of PC VR Brendan Iribe and a passage from Facebook’s quarterly report indicate more than five percent of the company’s total workforce are devoted to virtual reality in some capacity.
According to the report, “headcount was 18,770 as of March 31, 2017, an increase of 38% year-over-year.”