Oculus backtracks on open software promise

When we said we don't care if they mod our games, we actually meant we will prevent them

Oculus Rift

VR headset company Oculus has backtracked on a promise not to lock down its software to its hardware.

In an update put out this week, the company's digital rights management (DRM) system now checks whether the Oculus Rift headset is attached to the computer when playing a game.

If it isn't, the game won't play, effectively ensuring that Oculus games will only work with Oculus headsets.

Although it is fairly common practice in the gaming industry to lock games down to specific hardware, the change goes directly against a promise made by Oculus' CEO Palmer Luckey.

Responding to a comment on Reddit five months ago, Luckey wrote: "If customers buy a game from us, I don't care if they mod it to run on whatever they want. As I have said a million times (and counter to the current circlejerk), our goal is not to profit by locking people to only our hardware – if it was, why in the world would we be supporting GearVR and talking with other headset makers?"

That statement to allow for modifications led one user to develop a system, Revive, that would allow Oculus games to run on competing headsets such as HTC's Vive by connecting Oculus's software to OpenVR.

Luckey also noted in his post that the issue for the company was not whether its software would be open but that people "expect us to officially support all headsets on a platform level with some kind of universal Oculus SDK."

Revive was designed to solve that issue by allowing Oculus to focus on its own SDK and making it compatible with other systems without Oculus having to do the development work.

Inconsistent

It is far from the first time that Luckey has been called out for saying one thing and doing another. There is even a "Luckey's lies" subreddit.

Most famously, he said the price of the Oculus Rift was going to be around $350 but customers were surprised to discover only on launch that it was nearly double – $599. He subsequently apologized for "handling the messaging poorly."

Earlier than that, when Oculus was a Kickstarter project and before it was bought by Facebook, Palmer said his virtual reality project would be open source, prompting some developers to work for free on it. That changed, however, when investors came on board and the company moved to a closed system.

The company has referred to its new ability to prevent Oculus games from being played on others' headsets with the euphemism "platform integrity check." ®




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