Here’s how hectic the world of virtual reality has been in 2017: while writing up this list of the biggest stories to break this year, I could have sworn Palmer Luckey had parted ways with Oculus more than 12 months ago. There’s been so much to keep up with that even some of the year’s industry-shaking stories managed to slip through the cracks.
VR has had an interesting year filled with some amazing ups and unexpected downs. These are the most essential stories that will shape the industry as we head into 2018.
Oculus’ Lawsuit Goes Awry
Oculus did not have a great start to 2017. The year began with Facebook’s VR division being taken to court by ZeniMax Media, the parent company of gaming publisher Bethesda, which itself owns id Software, the former home of Oculus CTO John Carmack. ZeniMax claimed that Carmack and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey had used Bethesda resources when working on the first versions of the Oculus Rift — which the two collaborated over online in the early 10’s. When Carmack joined Oculus later on, ZeniMax claimed, he’d stolen Bethesda technology.
When news of the lawsuit first broke many had assumed it wouldn’t get far but, after a fascinating few days of legal battling, which saw Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg take the stand and thousands of intriguing tiny details about the early days of Oculus pour onto the web, the court ordered Facebook to pay ZeniMax $500 million in damages. Currently, Oculus is attempting to appeal the decision while ZeniMax works to cut it off at every turn. We haven’t heard the last of this story.
Palmer Parts Ways With Oculus
In late 2016 a report surfaced claiming that Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey had funded a political smear campaign. Luckey denied these accusations in part, but the news shook the VR industry to the core. For the past six years, Luckey had been the face of VR, the industry’s very own golden boy. In space of just a few days, though, he vanished from sight; social media accounts were left unused and Luckey was noticeably absent from major events like that year’s Oculus Connect developer conference.
Towards the end of the year Oculus had told us that Luckey had a new role within Oculus which would soon be revealed. A few months into 2017, however, we broke the news that Luckey was parting ways with Facebook for good. No reason was given, but it’s largely assumed 2016’s controversy kicked these events into action. Since then, Luckey has formed a new company working in the security sector, but has also kept one foot firmly in the VR industry. He’s back on Twitter, where he regularly talks about the industry (and sometimes even…