Zuckerberg takes the stand to defend Oculus

The Facebook CEO, giving testimony in a lawsuit over the virtual reality technology, describes a rushed and fraught deal nearly three years ago.

Ian Sherr
Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
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Zuck believes VR will change the way we use computers. He also believes ZeniMax's lawsuit over it is a cash grab.

James Martin/CNET

It may be called virtual reality, but it cost real cash -- and a lot more than Facebook initially let on.

Mark Zuckerberg, the social networking giant's CEO, said his company spent as much as $3 billion to buy Oculus VR, the high-flying startup that helped spark interest in the industry, according a reporter from The New York Times. That's significantly more than the $2 billion announced to the public in 2014. The difference was made up by $700 million in retention bonuses and $300 million in potential incentives.

The cost of the deal was the only surprising thing to come out of Zuckerberg's testimony Tuesday in a lawsuit with ZeniMax Media, which accuses Oculus and Facebook of "misappropriating" trade secrets and copyright infringement.

On Wednesday, the trial is expected to bring Palmer Luckey, the reclusive founder of Oculus, to the stand.

ZeniMax is perhaps best known as the owner of Id Software, whose Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake series of shooting games changed the way people saw their computers.

During the testimony in a Texas courtroom, relayed by reporters from The New York Times and CNBC, Zuckerberg described a quick purchase over what amounted to a weekend in 2014. Zuckerberg decided to buy Oculus after a demonstration earlier that year, and has since said he believes VR will change the way we interact with computers.

Zuckerberg said ZeniMax's claims are wrong and follow a pattern of companies attempting to make money following a major deal like the one he struck with Oculus.

Zuckerberg also said he hadn't heard of ZeniMax before its lawsuit against Facebook, the Times reported. And that Facebook's legal team didn't spend much time discussing the lawsuit with him because they didn't think it was credible.

Both Facebook and ZeniMax didn't respond to requests for comment.

First published Jan. 17, 11:02 a.m. PT.
Update, 4:29 p.m. PT: Adds details from Zuckerberg's testimony.

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