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Oculus founder apologizes as devs suspend support

Update: CEO says employees are "free to support the issues...that matter to them", devs within Oculus' Launch Pad diversity initiative disagree

Update: Palmer Luckey's comments have prompted a backlash from the fellows of Oculus VR's Launch Pad programme, an initiative designed to, “ inspire developers that represent our global audience.”

In a blog post published on the Oculus forum in May this year, the company appealed to, "women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone who is willing to share how their perspective adds to the 'diversity of thought' in our community." Oculus VR invited 100 developers to a “boot camp” the same month, gave each one a Gear VR headset, and asked them to work towards scholarships worth between $5,000 and $50,000.

According to a report on Buzzfeed, the recent revelations about Palmer Luckey's support for Donald Trump has been regarded by many of those developers as antithetical to the stated aims of the Launch Pad programme. One California-based fellow, speaking anonymously, described the response as, “surprise, shock, dismay, and disappointment.”

"I'm doing a Day of the Dead project and showing it at Day of the Dead festivals. How can I promote that when the head of Oculus is giving money [to support] Trump?"

Alejandro Quan-Madrid, Launch Pad fellow

With diversity at the core of what Launch Pad was trying to achieve, many of the initiative's developers were working on projects that sit uneasily beside the tenor of Trump's rhetoric. “I'm doing a Day of the Dead project and showing it at Day of the Dead festivals,” said Launch Pad fellow Alejandro Quan-Madrid. “How can I promote that when the head of Oculus is giving money [to support] Trump - and Trump wants people in my community to be deported?”

Oculus will announce the scholarship recipients next month, and it will do so with a new Diversity Lead. Amy Thole, who oversaw Launch Pad, left the role at Oculus VR yesterday to make a, “planned move to Oregon.” Buzzfeed reports that she will be replaced by Ebony Peay, who already works at the company.

Update: Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe has emphasised the freedom that Oculus VR allows its employees to support their personal views, a freedom he said also applied to Palmer Luckey.

In a post on his Facebook page, Iribe spoke about Luckey's regret at the negative impact the situation had created for "the company, our partners, and the industry." However, he offered a measure of support for Oculus VR's founder, citing Luckey's right to independent political beliefs.

"Everyone at Oculus is free to support the issues or causes that matter to them, whether or not we agree with those views," he said. "It is important to remember that Palmer acted independently in a personal capacity, and was in no way representing the company."

Original Story: After numerous publications (GamesIndustry.biz included) no doubt flooded Oculus with requests for comment on Friday, when the story broke that Palmer Luckey allegedly had been funding a pro-Trump "shitposting" group, the man himself took to Facebook (which owns Oculus) to apologize for his actions.

"Everyone at Oculus is free to support the issues or causes that matter to them, whether or not we agree with those views"

Brendan Iribe, CEO, Oculus VR

"I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views," he wrote. "Here's more background: 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."

Luckey went on to deny that he was the author behind the 'NimbleRichMan' posts on Reddit and the vice president of Nimble America: "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. Reports that I am a founder or employee of Nimble America are false. I don't have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America. Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I'm sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community."

The original Daily Beast article, however, confirmed that Luckey was indeed the man behind "NimbleRichMan" and author Gideon Resnick reiterated that fact on his Twitter account today.

So it's essentially Resnick's word against Luckey's, but Oculus Head of Content Jason Rubin urged people to take Luckey at his word. "I wanted to give @PalmerLuckey a chance to respond before I posted... knowing Palmer, I take him at his word," Rubin tweeted, adding, "30 years in the Game business I would not work in a place that I thought condoned or spread hate. Nor would I remain silent if I saw it."

Denials from Luckey and support from Oculus colleagues aside, the development community is already reacting, and some are pulling support for the Rift. Polytron, which is making a VR game called SuperHyperCube, noted on Twitter that it will not be supporting Oculus now. Scruta Games took it one step further, asking that Luckey leave the company he founded: "Until @PalmerLuckey steps down from his position at @oculus, we will be cancelling Oculus support for our games," the developer said. Tomorrow Today Labs issued a similar sentiment: "Hey @oculus, @PalmerLuckey's actions are unacceptable. NewtonVR will not be supporting the Oculus Touch as long as he is employed there."

"Until @PalmerLuckey steps down from his position at @oculus, we will be cancelling Oculus support for our games"

Tweet from Scruta Games

Edge of Nowhere developer Insomniac Games said it "condemns all forms of hate speech" and issued the following statement to Polygon as well: "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."

Not all developers are punishing Oculus for Luckey's actions, however. James Green, co-founder of VR developer Carbon Games, commented to Motherboard, "This backlash is nonsense. I absolutely support him doing whatever he wants politically if it's legal. To take any other position is against American values."

Oculus has had a number of obstacles to overcome on its path to retail, with Rift headsets not making it out to Kickstarter backers for months after launch and some consumers feeling that they had been misled on what the actual price of the unit would be. Luckey admitted that he "handled the messaging poorly" back in January, and now just as manufacturing of the headset has finally improved and the flow of software has started to increase as the company prepares to launch its Oculus Touch controllers, this PR storm and accusations that its founder is vice president of a racist, pro-Trump organization could represent a significant setback. It's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next few weeks and as we head into the holiday shopping season.

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Latest comments (23)

Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 2 years ago
""This backlash is nonsense. I absolutely support him doing whatever he wants politically if it's legal. To take any other position is against American values."

Mr Luckey has every right to support what he wants.....if it makes good PR, branding and commercial sense is another matter.
I always smile when people pull out the freedom of speech card, or the values rhetoric. Every civilized person knows there are freedoms we all love and enjoy, but with freedoms comes also responsibility, common sense and and in this case some business sense would have helped aswell.

As the face of a product Mr Luckey should certainly try to avoid touching on matters that are hugely divisive....like the presidential race in the states. Mr Luckey should concentrate on trying to reach both Trump AND clinton voters. And its not just a US only issue, the whole world has pretty polarized views on the current race. Oculus/facebook/Luckey should be way above picking sides but rather try appeal to a very broad audience.
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 2 years ago
If the backlash consists of a couple of [deleted by mod] developers getting pissed off, I'd say Mr. Luckey won't be losing any sleep over it.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by a moderator on 26th September 2016 3:06pm

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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online2 years ago
Insomniac isn't really an "irrelevant developer" - but then again, they are somehow making their way out of this without any action.

Why would Gideon Resnick make up such a story? I tend to believe him, not the somewhat late attempt of an explanation from PL.
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Show all comments (23)
Paul Jace Merchandiser 2 years ago
"I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views," he wrote.
Translation: "I am deeply sorry it was revealed that I have been a financial backer for a group that supports an openly racist, sexist, dishonest bigot. I really wish you guys hadn't found out because it could now damage the Oculus brand, affect sales and potentially get me demoted. Please accept my half-ass apology as I try to save face to regain some goodwill from the developer and gaming community"
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
If the backlash consists of a couple of irrelevant developers getting pissed off, I'd say Mr. Luckey won't be losing any sleep over it.
Any company that loses business support - regardless of how "irrelevant" they may be - is a company that suffers. No, of course Mr Luckey won't be losing any sleep over this - he's a billionaire, why would he - but that shouldn't downplay what this is. This is a very rich person enflaming racial and class tensions, in a subtle manner, in a country that doesn't need any more fuel added to that fire. This is not Mr Luckey coming-down in favour of Trump (something that he would be entirely allowed to do) - this is him making a dirty election even dirtier, for no reasons other than shits and giggles, and that he's rich and can do what he wants.
So it's essentially Resnick's word against Luckey's, but Oculus Head of Content Jason Rubin urged people to take Luckey at his word. "I wanted to give @PalmerLuckey a chance to respond before I posted... knowing Palmer, I take him at his word," Rubin tweeted,
I wonder if the reaction would've been different if it had been the Washington Post or the New York Times that had run the story? Anyway, if this is entirely untrue, then I expect Mr Luckey to start court proceedings very soon, for libel... Unless, of course, he knows he can't win because it's true.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 2 years ago
"Everyone at Oculus is free to support the issues or causes that matter to them, whether or not we agree with those views,"

He is free to support what he wants but there are limits. What if he was openly a Nazi/right wing supporter? Yeah good for business and the Oculus brand. What if he openly was against LGBT rights? Yeah good for business and the oculus brand.

What if he was openly supporting an anti-immigration, racial and religious profiling, advocate of torture and "hell of a lot worse", misogynist...candidate? well good for business and the Oculus brand, and as it is covered by free speech we are all for it, right?

Personally as a consumer, especially now that there are very viable alternatives, i will not touch Oculus. Not because this is a huge deal, but just because it goes to show a very juvenile and ignorant person, and because of news like this the brand has become tainted.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 years ago
I have a feeling that after an appropriate period of plausible deniability, that Palmer will "leave to pursue the next challenge" or whatever euphemism for being fired they want to use, so long as he keeps his mouth shut.

There's potentially some nasty jury trials coming up where how he does/did business are at the heart of them, suffice to say these actions would not play well in front of a panel
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
@Ruben Monteiro: Would you mind sharing with us what you consider "irrelevant"? I'm asking this simply out of curiosity since, as a professional, I would never dare to call another studio "irrelevant"
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up2 years ago
Just a naive mistake on his part, but the more prominent you are in the business, the less freedom you should expect politically. Just the way it goes.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd2 years ago
Are they keeping him around to fight the Zenimax legal challenge? Because I'm struggling to think of any possible reason they wouldn't immediately move to make a huge PR disaster like this go away.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.2 years ago
@John Owens:
Nobody is up in arms over who he is supporting but rather his means of doing so.

@Ruben Monteiro:
Are you an irrelevant member of this community? Don't dismiss others so easily lest they dismiss you all the same.
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@John fair point, although I hope you'd also agree that far too many people won't smell fascism until it goose steps up to them and takes them in the middle of the night.
I'm one of those uncool saddos who violates Godwin's Law at the earliest convenience because I don't think we can ever forget.
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@JOhn I hear that. Hillary wouldn't have much of a chance but for she's running against a bona fide man-child dangerous idiot.
The reason Godwins law is horseshit is because you have to break it to even *intimate* why Trump is on a fascist path, and so are his followers whether they know it or not.
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@John Pretty much everything I believe too. Just wish more believed it..
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
Forget Microsoft fanboys vs. Sony fanboys. The future is political, featuring right-wing platform holders and developers vs. left-wing platform holders and developers. Whoever scores the higher rating on Metacritic has the better ideology.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.2 years ago
@John Owens:
So you think this backlash is largely him supporting Trump rather than his affiliation with a smear campaign?
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Jeff Kesselman CTO/Architect/Lead Engineer 2 years ago
I have no trouble with Luckey supporting anybody personally he wishes to.

What disturbed me greatly though was the air of entitlement in the "Nimble Rich Man" post where he pretty clearly said that he thought he was a self-made success. His success came from a community of supporters and believers in his vision., He needs to *clearly* and *publicly* state this and his appreciation for said community if he expects to retain any loyalty for himself or his company from that community.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises2 years ago
Doesn't every major politician have their own personal armies of trolls? I'm pretty sure that's what campaign staff do, they help raise money, get out the vote, smear the other candidate. And cover up murders if it's House of Cards haha...
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Shawn Zipay Community Manager, Total Gaming Network2 years ago
@John Owens: Cynical? No, I wouldn't call it that.

I'd call it ignorance. Of course people would have a problem with it regardless of candidate. The issue isn't even who he's supporting it's what he's supporting. The guy admitted to helping to create and fund a group that panders to racists and anti-LGBT. The fact that people, like yourself, still believe this is merely about Luckey supporting one candidate over another is astonishing. It's right up there with the fact that people are taking his public "apology" as gospel when he already self-admitted that he wrote the posts under NimbleRichMan. He's a liar through and through.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shawn Zipay on 26th September 2016 10:32pm

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
@Klaus Preisinger:
Forget Microsoft fanboys vs. Sony fanboys. The future is political, featuring right-wing platform holders and developers vs. left-wing platform holders and developers. Whoever scores the higher rating on Metacritic has the better ideology
Have you visited Gamespot's forums as of late? It's already that way there.
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Adam Campbell Game Manager, Azoomee2 years ago
I can't imagine a scenario where anyone is happy to see a 'Facebook Billionaire' putting money into a trolling campaign whether its pro Trump or Clinton. Some people are also upset about the fact a man like Trump would get such support as he sees vast sections of society as inferior due to racial and gender stereotypes he actually believes.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.2 years ago
@John Owens:

So let me get this straight. If he were funding and actively engaged in a pro-Clinton smear campaign that proudly calls its activities "shitposting", you think people would not only not have a problem with it but laud him for it?
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@John
Clinton is terrible because she's more of the same, which I agree is exactly what the world does not need right now. Still, everything you listed as her flaws just about suit the description of every mainstream politician. The idea she's some sort of unique evil only flies with people who don't care to pay attention to the actual filth out there. Such as that neurotic, toddler-brained, unhinged gasbag Herr Trump.
As a US voter if I remained "only" anti-Clinton in the face of a Trump victory, I'm an idiot.
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