Polytron Pulls Oculus Support In Light Of Palmer Luckey Controversy
photo by Jason Henry
Last night The Daily Beast reported that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey is the money man behind an unofficial Donald Trump support group responsible for creating memes attacking Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Known as Nimble America, the group also lists extremist right-wing activist Milo Yiannopoulos, one of the predominant voices in the early GamerGate movement, as a silent partner.
Nimble America's self proclaimed specialty is "shitposting," which in this case includes the creation and dissemination of lowbrow memes meant to paint the rival candidate in a unflattering light.
The fallout in the video game realm has been quick. According to multiple sources who wish to remain anonymous, some Oculus employees tendered resignations after hearing the news, with other potential job candidates withdrawing their applications. Some studios scheduled to release virtual reality games on the Oculus platform even abandoned those ambitions. Polytron, the creators of SuperHyperCube and Fez, announced its decision this afternoon.
The studio issued the following statement on Pastebin:
You may have seen the news yesterday that ties Oculus founder Palmer Luckey to Nimble America, a Trump-endorsing organization Luckey started to defame Clinton via "the power of Internet memes".
In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one, we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform.
In light of this, we will not be pursuing Oculus support for our upcoming VR release, SuperHyperCube.
If you are a voting citizen of the United States, please remember to register and make your voice heard this November 8th. Do not let bigotry, white supremacy, hate and fear win.
Luckey is no stranger to controversy. The young Oculus founder, who sold his company to Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, is heavily featured in Zenimax's pending lawsuit suing Oculus for the theft of its intellectual property. As reported by our former news editor Mike Futter, the suit alleges that Palmer Luckey is not the inventor of contemporary virtual reality. In the original filing, Zenimax states that "Luckey increasingly held himself out to the media and the public as the visionary developer of the Rift’s VR Technology, which had actually been developed by ZeniMax without Luckey’s involvement."
The similar passage from the amended complaint is far more damning, suggesting that Iribe knowingly spread a tall tale about Luckey creating VR in his parents' garage. "Oculus, at [CEO Brendan] Iribe’s direction, disseminated to the press the false and fanciful story that Luckey was the brilliant inventor of VR technology who had developed that technology in his parents’ garage," the new document reads. "In fact, that story was utterly and completely false: Luckey lacked the training, expertise, resources, or know-how to create commercially viable VR technology, his computer programming skills were rudimentary, and he relied on ZeniMax's computer program code and games to demonstrate the prototype Rift. Nevertheless, this fraudulent tale was frequently reported in the media as fact. Luckey increasingly and falsely held himself out to the media and the public as the visionary developer of the Rift’s VR Technology, which had actually been developed by ZeniMax without any substantial contribution from Luckey."
The timing of this incident is unfortunate for Oculus, as Rift sales have stagnated and the company is hosting Oculus Connect 3, its yearly developer conference, from October 5-7.
We have reached out to Oculus for a comment and will update the story as we hear more.
Politics and business are intimately involved in myriad ways, and this Palmer Luckey controversy demonstrates how business leaders can potentially jeopardize their companies by being too forthright or immersed in political discourse. If Oculus continues to lose developer support and more of its workforce resigns in protest of Luckey's after-hours activism, the founder could be forced to adapt to a reality he'd prefer to leave in the virtual realm – forced resignation.