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Oculus under fire for efforts to secure exclusive rights to VR titles

Oculus’ policies and practices have been under fire almost since the Rift launch. The company’s decision to launch into retail stores without first filling preorders sat poorly with many of its most ardent fans, while its decision to break the Revive compatibility project by introducing DRM to the Oculus Store flew directly in the face of earlier comments by founder Palmer Luckey. Now the company is in the hot seat again over its attempts to secure paid exclusives for the Rift.

Yesterday, a Croteam developer named Mario Kotlar who’s currently working on Serious Sam VR, stated the following regarding Oculus:

The Vive subreddit predictably exploded over this, since Oculus’ efforts to lock down its own ecosystem haven’t been well-regarded by other communities or individuals who think the company is promoting its own solution ahead of trying to build a larger VR ecosystem. Another Croteam employee later chimed in with additional information and clarification on the relationship between Oculus and the Serious Sam VR team.

Ok, Mario, you’ve had fun here, now let’s get serious. :)
I want to clarify some of the inaccuracies about our relationship with Oculus. Oculus did approach us with an offer to help fund the completion of Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope in exchange for launching first on the Oculus Store and keeping it time-limited exclusive. Their offer was to help us accelerate development of our game, with the expectation that it would eventually support all PC VR platforms. We looked at the offer and decided it wasn’t right for our team. At no time did Oculus ask for, or did we discuss total exclusivity or buyout of support from Vive. We look forward to supporting Rift and Vive.

Timed exclusives aren’t the same thing universal and permanent exclusives, but trust is a rare commodity in the Oculus community these days after months of reversals by Luckey and the rest of the team. Ars Technica caught up with the Oculus executives at E3 this week and tried to nail down some of the perceived discrepancies between the company’s statements and its actions. According to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, the company has taken two distinct approaches to publishing games for the Rift. On the one hand, there are certain games that were 100% Oculus-funded, like Lucky’s Tale and Edge of Nowhere. The developers in question still own the base IP and can make other games with it if they wish, but these specific titles are locked to Oculus (Loculus?) in perpetuity.

Other games are partially funded by Oculus Publishing in exchange for a limited window of exclusivity, as previously mentioned.

Oculus’ decision to introduce DRM to the Oculus Store has been one of its least popular. Oculus Head of Content Jason Rubin attempted to square the circle between Palmer Luckey’s early comments that Oculus didn’t care where software ran with the Oculus Store’s current practices.

“If somebody has purchased content and they want to mod something to work on their PC and do whatever they want to do, nobody at Oculus has ever had a problem with that,” Rubin told Ars.

The problem, apparently, is when said “hacks” are distributed. “[A personal hack] is a far cry difference from an institutional tool made and distributed to a mass number of people to [support other headsets], strip out DRM, strip out platform features and the like. For an individual to do that for themselves, that would be all right. Mass distribution is an entirely different situation.”

This is a blatant attempt to move the goal posts. Luckey’s original comment on the topic was as follows:

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? The software we create through Oculus Studios (using a mix of internal and external developers) are exclusive to the Oculus platform, not the Rift itself.

There are only two ways to read these statements: Either Rubin is trying to rewrite what Luckey meant as a way to rein in expectations, or Luckey deliberately misled Oculus and Vive customers about the company’s plans and intentions for the Oculus Store. While we’ve previously written about how it made sense for Oculus to create exclusives for itself to try and challenge Steam — but explaining the behavior by claiming that personal hacks to get games running is okay while distributing those software tools is frowned on simply doesn’t track with Luckey’s original comments.

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