Early On, Oculus Rift Creator Said He Wouldn’t Sell Out

“Oculus is going forward in a big way, but a way that still lets me focus on the community first, and not sell out to a large company.” — Rift creator Palmer Luckey in 2012

Oculus VR selling out to Facebook went over about as well as an AIG bonus payment. Gamers aren’t happy and those who backed the Oculus Rift from the get go via Kickstarter are even more upset. And for good reason: Rift creator Palmer Luckey intimated on numerous occasions that he didn’t want to sell out to a larger company.

Before there was Oculus VR, the now sizable company that Facebook shelled out a reported $2 billion for, there was Palmer Luckey, virtual reality enthusiast, toiling away on his own to create a VR HMD. In early 2012, he’d solved many of the issues that prevented VR from fulfilling its potential, and he was ready to actually make and ship his HMD for enthusiasts, with a little help from Kickstarter.

“The goal is to start a Kickstarter project on June 1st that will end on July 1st, shipping afterwards as soon as possible,” Luckey wrote in an April 2012 post on the Meant to be Seen forums. “I won’t make a penny of profit off this project, the goal is to pay for the costs of parts, manufacturing, shipping, and credit card/Kickstarter fees with about $10 left over for a celebratory pizza and beer.”

I added the emphasis in the quote above, not to suggest Luckey promised he would never profit from his invention, but to demonstrate the Rift’s origins are humble, generous, and community driven. Luckey made that point even clearer when he announced he’d found a number of partners to help with his project, including Valve and Epic games, but still wasn’t interested in selling (emphasis again added):

“The extent of their relationships with Oculus varies, but I can promise at least a few partnerships. Oculus is going forward in a big way, but a way that still lets me focus on the community first, and not sell out to a large company.

Sadly, that’s just what Luckey did when he sold Oculus VR to Facebook yesterday, and as Minecraft creator and Rift backer Markus “Notch” Persson said, it just didn’t seem right:

“I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.”

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11 Comments on Early On, Oculus Rift Creator Said He Wouldn’t Sell Out

quicktooth

On March 26, 2014 at 7:53 am

Lies, damned lies and statistics. The backers of the Rift and/or kickstarter probably have grounds to sue. This is *NOT* what kickstarter is for. It’s for funding projects that wouldn’t be funded otherswise, not (as Notch so eloquently puts it) “to build value for a Facebook acquisition”. The company founder lying through his teeth about the project being non-profit in the pitch that got the kickstarter funding in the first place, alone, is probably legally culpable. Also, lying when he said he “… wouldn’t sell out to a large company” in the pitch process is probably separately legally culpable. A *lot* of money was given to him according to very specific criteria, and he’s just done the complete opposite of those criteria. This is an *amazingly* public and forceful betrayal of the project’s backers. That’s probably going to put any judge and jury firmly in favour of any litegants, assuming kickstarter’s terms and the terms of the backer/project founder agreement are technically violated.

This is a tragedy not only for the future of gaming (whose VR promise is once again tarnished), but for the very process of games making- the indie/passion project concept of games that has begun to free games developers creatively and financially from the crippling “publisher” funding model will be weakened. And not only weakened in the loss of enthusiasm people will have for funding kickstarter projects at all, but if Oculus is allowed to legally do as it has done, then the very structure of kickstarter as a service is compromised. We have to believe in kickstarter too, not only in the projects that use it. If kickstarter *doesn’t* jump on this like a legal tonne of bricks, then no one can believe that there’s any consequences at all to simply lying while pitching a project. And NO ONE can trust and therefore use kickstarter, then.

[And Gamefront, "I added the emphasis in the quote above, not to suggest Luckey promised he would never profit from his invention..." is very disingenuous given that he is in fact directly stating that he "won’t make a penny of profit off this project". He says it straight out. How can covering the costs of parts and manufacturing etc *not* have directly led to a functioning Rift in everyone's hands- the very opportunity to get the facebook buyout that has now happened? Seeing as his "project" has just made him BILLIONS you're making a very nonsensical qualification!]

quicktooth

On March 26, 2014 at 7:57 am

Clarification: Of course Mike said in his article ‘profit from the invention’, not from the ‘project’. I’m trying to assert the project necessarily led to the finished device (the ‘invention’ in this sense), and therefore profiting from the project is profiting from the invention. Sorry for not being clear.

TheDude

On March 26, 2014 at 2:51 pm

quicktooth, would you have denied someone offering you 2 billion dollars for your company for some words you said earlier in your life?

MIke

On March 26, 2014 at 2:53 pm

*shrugs* I guess everyone has their price, $2 billion just happens to be his. I happen to put more emphasis on keeping to my word, but that’s just how I was raised. I thought this idea was too good to not get bought eventually, I just thought it would be EA or some other peripheral maker. I’m glad I didn’t back this one, feel like my money would be dirty in any relation to Zuckerburg and Facebook.

TeaXL

On March 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm

I backed the project from the start, I wasn’t really that interested in the dev kit as much as I was the idea that Luckey portraid. Realistically if he sticks with the overall idea of OR, and still stands for an open ‘gaming’ platform everything I backed the project for would come to fruition. Time will tell really, lets hope they don’t let anyone down. In hindsight that Tesco supermarket app for the OR makes total sense now.

Mark

On March 26, 2014 at 3:56 pm

You have 3 new messages.

Rickshaw

On March 26, 2014 at 4:57 pm

He sold out to protect his future billion dollar lawsuits, instead he got paid out by a mug called Facebook.

quicktooth

On March 26, 2014 at 10:56 pm

@TheDude – Yes. I would. Seeing as I would have made a promise, and that *means* something to me. Seeing as I would have been acting on *my* beliefs and values, not someone *else’s*. If you don’t act on your own beliefs and values, who’s values are driving your body? Your mind? Not yours. Do you *want* to use your own mind and body? If you change your beliefs any time there’s money (or what have you) at stake, you’re saying you don’t really live your own life. It’s lived by someone else, in a way that benefits them. It might be my philosophy training, but it’s obvious to me. And I *want* my own life. That’s worth a lot more to me than some tokens of exchange. This life is the only one I’ve got, and every moment I lose is one I’ll never get back. This isn’t some airy-fairy abstract theory, this is simple practicalities. Oh yeah, and being able to look myself in the mirror and go to sleep at night are nice too.

Concernedgamer

On March 27, 2014 at 6:31 am

@quicktooth: What’s needed is a spine, and people just don’t have them anymore. I respect you for keeping yours, though.

quicktooth

On March 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm

@Concernedgamer – Thanks very much, and I think you’re right on both counts. I wish more people actually did what they themselves wanted in life. Never thought I’d be typing those words. (And smartasses who think spineless cowards are doing what they personally want can go look up how fear and manipulation work; happy readings).

Tiagonal

On March 30, 2014 at 8:30 am

I don’t care about Virtual Reality…

Just a good 360° display in front of my eyes…

When?