The studio’s 50 staffers are encouraged to apply for new jobs within Oculus.
The award-winning studio behind VR short films like Dear Angelica and Henry is closing their doors. The news was announced by Oculus Thursday afternoon in a blog post by Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin.
In what is being described as the “next chapter of creative development in VR,” Rubin explains that Oculus has decided to “shift their focus away from internal content creation to support more external production.”
Oculus Story Studio was unveiled back in early 2015 with a mission to create original cinematic VR content, premiering Lost as the studio’s first narrative piece. The next year in 2016, Story Studio followed up with the animated VR short Henry, a heartwarming comedy about a lovable hedgehog who longs for friendship but scares away other animals with his spikiness. Henry won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program.
In the past year, Oculus Story Studio premiered Dear Angelica, a Wesley Allsbrook masterpiece painted by hand inside of VR that played out in a series of memories unfolding around you.
The birth of Oculus Story Studio was a strong signal that non-gaming content creation and the creators behind them were important to Facebook’s long term vision of immersive content. But with the lastest closure, we are left scratching our head.
Where does this leave the community of filmmakers and developers committed to the narrative VR art form?
According to Rubin, they are still “absolutely committed to growing the VR film and creative content ecosystem.”
During the Oculus Connect developer conference in October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that the company would be committing an additional $250M to fund VR content from developers all over the world. In today’s Oculus Story Studio announcement, Rubin detailed that $50M of that fund will be carved out to exclusively fund non-gaming, experiential VR content. “This money will go directly to artists to help jumpstart the most innovative and groundbreaking VR ideas.”
It’s unclear where this leaves Story Studio’s illustration tool Quill. We recently got a mind-blowing look at animation in VR with artist Goro Fujita who was testing new features in the app. Although Quill will continue to be available and maintained in the Oculus Store, let’s hope to don’t completely ax new features like this in the future.
All Story Studio projects currently in production have been cancelled, including a VR adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls.