VR Devs Pull Support for Oculus Rift Until Palmer Luckey Steps Down
Will Oculus Rift lose support from game developers because its inventor supports Donald Trump?
Update: Palmer Luckey has issued an apology in response to The Daily Beast story, but emails shared with Motherboard show that his statement is not telling the whole truth.
Several virtual reality game developers have announced that they will stop supporting Facebook's Oculus Rift VR headset until its founder Palmer Luckey steps down.
Developers announced that they will stop supporting the Oculus Rift after The Daily Beast revealed that Luckey raised money for a pro-Donald Trump non-profit through a convoluted Reddit scheme. As Motherboard reported on Friday, Luckey's Twitter activity has been sympathetic to the alt-right and the bigotry that defines it since March of this year.
"Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech," Insomniac Games, makers of big-budget console games like Ratchet & Clank and one of the biggest developers making games for Oculus, told Motherboard. "While everyone has a right to express his or her political opinion, the behavior and sentiments reported do not reflect the values of our company. We are also confident that this behavior and sentiment does not reflect the values of the many Oculus employees we work with on a daily basis."
"In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one, we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform," Fez and Superhypercube developer Polytron said in a statement.
These are small developers even by the standards of the VR development scene, that for the most part is still populated by small, independent teams as opposed to big-budget game studio backed by major publishers.
Motherboard has reached out to several other, more well-known VR developers who work with Oculus including Fantastic Contraption makers Northway Games and Job Simulator makers Owlchemy Labs. Northway Games couldn't be reached immediately for comment but tweeted the following:
Owlchemy Labs, which is currently developing for Job Simulator for the Oculus Touch controls, declined to comment either way.
E McNeill, who has developed couple of games for Oculus Rift and GearVR, suggested that like-minded VR developers raise money for Hillary Clinton's campaign to counter the money Luckey has raised for Trump.
"I've had a great experience working with Oculus over the years (including working with a lot of good people), and I like the products that they've built," McNeill told me over Twitter. "I don't think I'm going to boycott the company based on the politics of its founder. I'll keep working with them. But this sure as hell doesn't make me feel better about it."
"This backlash is nonsense," said James Green, co-founder of VR developer Carbon Games. "I absolutely support him doing whatever he wants politically if it's legal. To take any other position is against American values."
My understanding from talking to people in the VR space is that many knew Luckey's political leanings (mostly through his girlfriend's pro-Trump, pro-GamerGate Twitter presence), but not the extent to which he supported the alt-right.
The decision to drop support for the Oculus Rift comes at a critical time for the platform. If VR really is the media of the future as evangelists like Luckey claim it is, we are currently in the landgrab phase. The major platforms in this race are Facebook's Oculus Rift, Sony's PlayStation VR, Google's Daydream, and Valve and HTC's Vive.
Since games are still the primary attraction for early VR adopters, and since the greatest challenge for all VR platforms is securing enough content to make them worth buying, losing support from game developers could seriously damage Oculus.
Oculus has invested a lot of money and effort to encourage developers to make games for the Rift. The company has even gone as far as to secure exclusive games and prevent them from being ported to other platform with DRM, though it rolled back its DRM after an outcry from the community.
Update: This story has been updated with quotes from E McNeill and James Green.
Update 2: This story has been updated to show that Fez and Superhypercube developer Polytron will not support the Oculus Rift in light of the Palmer Luckey's support of Donald Trump.
Correction: Two tweets originally included in this story were removed because those developers didn't have VR games in development. They were joking. We regret the error.