Oculus announced today that it's "winding down" the Story Studio division responsible for VR films Lost, Henry, and Dear Angelica, as well as the Quill tool that can be used to create similar works. The company will instead focus on supporting other artists in their VR film-making efforts.
The announcement follows a tumultuous couple of months for Oculus. In February, ZeniMax won a $500 million lawsuit and promptly tried to block sales of the Oculus Rift and Samsung's Gear VR headsets, and in March the company announced that founder Palmer Luckey would depart after disappearing from the public eye. Now the company is shuttering a division that has earned critical praise and pushed the boundaries of VR films.
Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin acknowledged Story Studio's achievements in the blog post announcing its closure:
Lost, Henry, Dear Angelica, and Quill set the foundation upon which VR storytelling sits today. The Story Studio team are pioneers in VR development, and their groundbreaking works will continue to be available on the Oculus Store. Story Studio did an incredible job sharing their behind the scenes tips and techniques with the community—from how to preserve rich colors in VR film to open sourcing the Unreal Engine project and assets for Henry—and we’ll continue to make this information available to developers.
Rubin said that Oculus will now work to "inspire creators across all mediums and genres—filmmakers, musicians, painters, writers, cartoonists, and more—to bring their VR ideas to life." The company will also financially support those endeavors: Rubin said that Oculus will "carve out" $50 million to "exclusively fund non-gaming, experiential VR content" from its $250 million financial commitment to fund VR development of all categories.
"We’re now entering the next chapter of VR development, where new creators enter the market in anticipation of adoption and growth, and we’ve been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem," Rubin said. "After careful consideration, we’ve decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production."
Oculus Story Studio released its first short film, Lost, in 2015. The Emmy Award winning Henry followed in 2016, and the studio's latest work, Dear Angelica, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Rubin didn't say in his blog post if the Story Studio team members, which includes animators and directors from Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and others, will remain at the company following the division's "winding down."