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Palmer Luckey Donating Thousands to Software That Breaks Oculus Exclusivity

The co-founder, who left Facebook a few months after a political controversy, hasn't fully left VR behind.

by Patrick Klepek
Jun 30 2017, 3:00pm

Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey may not longer be part of the virtual reality revolution he helped spearhead, but he's not entirely out of the world of VR. Revive, a piece of software that enables Oculus-exclusive games to be played on HTC's Vive headset, recently revealed that Lucky is now contributing $2,000 per month to a crowdfunded development campaign.

"As some of you suspected the sudden extreme jump in the pledge amount is indeed by Palmer Luckey," said Revive developer Jules Blok in a post on Patreon. "I'd like to thank him for his pledge and everything he has done for the VR community as a whole."

Luckey confirmed the donation to me yesterday afternoon.

It's pretty fascinating that one of the people chiefly responsible for Oculus would be get behind such a project. Given how much Oculus ramped up after Facebook acquired them, however, it's unclear if the decision to embrace exclusives was even Luckey's idea. He wasn't in charge of software.

The co-founder unceremoniously left Facebook in late March, roughly six months after it was revealed Luckey had been donating to a pro-Trump Internet group distributing shitpost memes around the Internet. Luckey soon issued a statement, saying he was "deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners," but that "recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views." In the months since, he's openly talked about his issues with the reporting around those political contributions.

Hardware exclusives are nothing new, of course. It's how companies build up their platform, and get people to invest in them emotionally and financially. Some fans had hoped VR might be different. Pretty soon, though, Oculus was announcing games that would be Oculus-only, available to download only through their storefront and only compatible with their hardware.

Besides expressing their displeasure online, it wasn't a surprise when fans found a workaround with a clever hack. The result was Revive. While glitchy and janky at first, Revive delivered on its basic promise: you could play Oculus exclusives on your Vive. (At the moment, and likely for the foreseeable future, there's no way to play PlayStation VR exclusives anywhere else.)

Oculus' best bet would have been to let Revive do their thing; it meant people were buying games through their store. Instead, they added a much-derided "hardware check" that broke Revive and prevented people from playing those games on a Vive. Oculus later removed it.

I get why people irked at Oculus exclusives in the first place, but their anger was misplaced. Developers I've spoken to over the years suggested many of those games wouldn't have existed without Oculus stepping in with Facebook's deep pockets and willing them into existence. VR was, and remains, a risky bet because most games struggle to make money. Oculus was just laying the groundwork.

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