Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey Not So Lucky As Developers Pull Support For Rift Over Political Views
Palmer Luckey is feeling the heat as developers threaten to cease developing games for the Oculus Rift.
The boycott began after the Daily Beast ran an article that connected the co-founder of Oculus to an unofficial Donald Trump group called Nimble America.
“[Nimble America is] group dedicated to ‘sh**posting’ and circulating internet memes maligning Hillary Clinton,” stated the Daily Beast.
According to the report, Luckey posted to the Reddit group allegedly tied to Nimble America, under the pseudonym NimbleRichMan. Palmer said the Reddit account was given to him by the organization’s founder.
On Saturday, NimbleRichMan posted, “The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals. The same has been true of many movements for freedom in history. You can’t fight the American elite without serious firepower. They will outspend you and destroy you by any and all means.”
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) September 25, 2016
Luckey’s post was not provocative or derogatory in nature, nor could the Daily Beast point to a post by Luckey or NimbleRichMan that was indicative of the Nimble America group. However, his connection to and funding of the group was enough to have Oculus game developers threatening to boycott the device.
Several developers voiced their disapproval after the Daily Beast published the story. According to Motherboard, Insomniac Games issued a statement regarding the matter.
“Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech. 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.”
Unfortunately for Insomniac, speaking out against Luckey is all that it can do since it is in an exclusive contract with Oculus.
Insomniac Games – currently in an exclusive contract with Oculus – have made a statement regarding Palmer Luckey. pic.twitter.com/CqtVEIB0Js
— CoinArcade (@CoinArcade) September 24, 2016
Several other developers seem to share Insomniac’s feelings. Polytron, maker of Fez and Superhypercube, along with fellow independent studio NewtonVR, tweeted that they would not be developing games for the Oculus unless Palmer Luckey steps down.
Developer Colin Northway of Northway Games seemed inclined to comment but resisted.
Northway said in a tweet, “What. The. ****. Definitely using every fibre of my ‘professionalism’ to not tweet some tweets right now.”
Other companies were more tolerant.
Small indy developer E McNeill told Motherboard, “I’ve had a great experience working with Oculus over the years, and I like the products that they’ve built. I don’t think I’m going to boycott the company based on the politics of its founder.”
— E McNeill (@E_McNeill) October 23, 2015
McNeill had earlier tweeted that he should start a “donation drive” for Hillary Clinton, indicating that he did not agree with Palmer’s stance. However, his indignation toward Luckey seemed more politically opposed rather than outrage at Palmer’s association with Nimble America.
Not everyone is upset with Palmer Luckey. The co-founder of Carbon Games James Green spoke out in support of Luckey.
“This backlash is nonsense. I absolutely support him doing whatever he wants politically if it’s legal,” said Green. “To take any other position is against American values.”
Despite the support from Green, the response to the Daily Beast article has been negative for Oculus. The backlash led Palmer to post an apology on Facebook. In it, he apologized for the negative perception that his actions have created for “Oculus and its partners,” but he also claimed that the article did not accurately represent him.
“I contributed $10,000 to Nimble America because I thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards. I am a libertarian who has publicly supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the past, and I plan on voting for Gary in this election as well. I am committed to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. I did not write the ‘NimbleRichMan’ posts, nor did I delete the account.”
Ben Collins and Gideon Resnick, co-authors of the original Daily Beast article, responded to Palmer’s denial with screen shots of was appears to be an email communication between Resnick and Luckey in which Luckey admits to writing the NimbleRichMan posts.
Here is where I sought that clarification from him and what he said. pic.twitter.com/pPfLKUX5Cg
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) September 24, 2016
Since Oculus is directly affected by all of this, Motherboard requested comment from the company but was directed to Palmer’s Facebook apology instead. However, Oculus CEO and co-founder Brendan Iribin stood up for Luckey in a statement on his own Facebook account.
“I want to respond to the recent press stories involving Palmer. I know that Palmer is deeply sorry for the impact this situation is having on the company, our partners and the industry. Everyone at Oculus is free to support the issues or causes that matter to them, whether or not we agree with those views. It is important to remember that Palmer acted independently in a personal capacity, and was in no way representing the company.”
It seems apparent that Palmer Luckey is not going to step down from his company, nor does it appear that Oculus is going to ask him to resign. Facebook, which purchased Oculus from Luckey in 2014 for $2 billion, has not commented on the situation at the time of this writing.
— GamesIndustry (@GIBiz) September 26, 2016
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So if no action is taken, what does it mean for Oculus and the developers that are threatening a boycott?
Motherboard points out that VR is in the early stages of development at this time and that losing developer support now could be quite damaging. However, the majority of the developers threatening to pull their support are small independent studios. Aside from Insomniac Games, these companies do not have money to waste, and many of them already have projects in the works for the Rift. It is not likely that these small companies struggling to make a name for themselves in VR are going to throw away their work to make a statement against Palmer Luckey’s political views or contributions. A more likely outcome is that the dust will settle and development will go back to business as usual.
When things calm down, the developers will probably adopt the same attitude as E McNeill who says of Oculus, “I’ll keep working with them. But this sure as he** doesn’t make me feel better about it.”
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]