Even before the sale of Oculus VR to Facebook, many had predicted virtual reality headsets would be a big talking point for 2014. However, few could have expected what a contentious shift the technology would make, especially given how new and exciting it is.
Regardless of how gamers’ opinions may or may not have changed regarding VR, one thing is clear: there is big money to be made in the space. And as a result, that aforementioned sale to Facebook has drawn a lot of discerning eyes.
One company that appears none too happy with the sale is ZeniMax Media, parent company to developers like Bethesda and id Software. They also happen to be the former employer of long-time Oculus supporter and current Oculus CTO John Carmack.
According to ZeniMax, a lot of Oculus’ early success can be attributed to software and support provided by many of their employees, not just Carmack. To put it more bluntly,
“It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr. Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, ZeniMax, that Mr. Luckey was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality.”
Shortly after claims of Oculus’ alleged theft arose, however, Carmack was quick to respond, saying that no code developed while he was at ZeniMax has gone into the Oculus Rift.
No work I have ever done has been patented. Zenimax owns the code that I wrote, but they don't own VR.— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) May 1, 2014
Nevertheless, ZeniMax remains resolute in their claims, even going so far as to say that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey acknowledged, in writing, ZeniMax’s “legal ownership of this intellectual property.” Things get a little hairier when you consider that this written agreement also included a provision that Oculus VR not share any of its “technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax.” One has to assume, though, that after the sale to Facebook some of that information, if not all of it, was shared with the company’s new owners, potentially for use in non-gaming related spaces.
Since these claims were brought up, however, Oculus has released an official response that doesn’t mince words. As expected, the response touches upon Carmack’s history with ZeniMax and how his work factors into the Oculus Rift’s development. Most importantly, the response alleges that all of ZeniMax’s claims are false. Read the full, unedited response below.
- There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products.
- John Carmack did not take any intellectual property from Zenimax.
- Zenimax has misstated the purposes and language of the Zenimax non-disclosure agreement that Palmer Luckey signed.
- A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company.
- Zenimax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused Zenimax’s demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus.
- Zenimax did not pursue claims against Oculus for IP or technology, Zenimax has never contributed any IP or technology to Oculus, and only after the Facebook deal was announced has Zenimax now made these claims through its lawyers.
- Despite the fact that the full source code for the Oculus SDK is available online (developer.oculusvr.com), Zenimax has never identified any ‘stolen’ code or technology.
We’re sure that over time this issue will be worked out, likely in the court system, but for now the pot is certainly boiling. ZeniMax’s claims, if proven true, could throw a huge rut into Oculus’ growth, which just recently hit a new height with the Facebook acquisition. This is also significant because Oculus has found new competition in the form of Sony’s Project Morpheus, which is gradually building steam thanks to a stellar showing at GDC 2014 and the negative buzz surrounding Oculus’ sale. We’ll say it again, and it likely won’t be the last time, virtual reality is only going to get more and more exciting this year, for a dozen different reasons.
Has your opinion of the Oculus Rift changed since the Facebook sale? Do you think that Carmack did take info gained while at ZeniMax and use it to Oculus’ benefit?