The FIFA World Cup, one of the most popular sporting events in the world, started today with a matchup between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The games, which will take place June 14 – July 15, are expected to draw in over 3.4 billion viewers (almost half of the world’s population), according to the research company GlobalWebIndex. The event is expected to be watched through every device possible, from smart phones to Laptops to Connected TVs. But for those fans who want to get a closer look at the matchups, without shelling out $1000, Facebook’s Oculus has announced that it will make several of the matches available in VR for free. In addition to the watching the game in VR, Oculus is giving users the ability to watch the games with friends via a co-viewing app Venues.
Launched last month, Venues lets users watch 360-degree live streams of concerts, sports events and comedy nights together with others in VR, while also giving users the ability to speak to each other, just as if they were really sitting next to one another. The app, along with the soccer streams, can be found on Oculus Go and Gear VR, where they can be watched by U.S. audiences. Venues will be streaming four games starting with Sunday’s face-off between Mexico and Germany, followed by Portugal vs. Morocco on June 20, Brazil vs. Costa Rica on June 22, and England vs. Panama on June 24.
In addition to the World Cup, Oculus has also been live streaming a weekly MLB game and weekly standup comedy acts from the Gotham Comedy Club, among other events. The move is part of Facebook’s plan to make Oculus more than just a place to play video games, making the Oculus VR Headsets more attractive for older generations or those who are not into gaming. To that end, last month the social media giant launched a dedicated video viewing app called Oculus TV. The new app acts as a virtual home theater that sits user down in front of a custom-built 3D environment with (what seems to be) a massive screen and virtual seating area. Users have several apps to choose from including Netflix, Hulu, Facebook Video, ESPN, and free OTT TV service Pluto TV.