Without any warning, Facebook announced this afternoon that it would shut down its Oculus Story Studio division.
Story Studio, launched in January 2015, was the filmmaking group within its virtual reality division Oculus. The unit counted former Pixar employees Saschka Unseld and Max Planck among its senior management; Unseld was creative director and Planck was the technical director.
The group, headed by Edward Saatchi, had been tasked with investigating the possibilities of non-linear, real-time, and augmented reality storytelling, and had created projects such as Henry and Dear Angelica, the latter of which made use of a custom drawing tool called Quill.
In a blog post explaining the decision, Jason Rubin, vp of content at Oculus, said that while Facebook was shifting away from internal content creation, it would remain committed to the vr film and creative content ecosystem. The company says that it is reallocating resources from Story Studio to fund third-party vr artists and developers:
Last year, we committed an additional $250M to fund vr content from developers all over the world. That investment supported games like Robo Recall, Rock Band VR, and Wilson’s Heart, plus powerful vr experiences like Through the Ages from Felix & Paul and the Follow My Lead experience featuring the 2016 NBA finals.
We’re going to carve out $50M from that financial commitment 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.
Rubin wrote that Facebook will also continue to provide resources and programs to help creators get started in vr, including tutorials, production and distribution tips, best practices for vr development, and chances to connect with leaders in the community.
While all of the Story Studio projects that had been in production have been cancelled, Facebook is inviting the fifty employees in the Story Studio division to apply for other positions within the Oculus group. Among the projects that had been in development within the unit was a virtual reality adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls.