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Why Oculus's bitter DRM arms race exacerbates the Rift's disappointing launch

Hayden Dingman | May 24, 2016
Oculus should focus on getting games and gear into VR adoptee's hands rather than locking paid-for games to its walled garden.

A series of missteps

Somewhere between Oculus Share and this new DRM though, Oculus seemed to lose track of pie-in-the-sky Luckey’s vision and started acting a lot more like a “real business.” One that wants to start a pissing match between itself and its biggest competitor.

“If customers buy a game from us, I don’t care if they mod it to run on whatever they want... Our goal is not to profit by locking people to only our hardware.” —Palmer Luckey, January 2016

It’s alienating many of Oculus’s diehard fans. Even the ones who can see why Oculus would be upset at Revive flaunting the rules (myself included) seem incensed Oculus would waste time on what’s essentially anti-consumer Whac-a-Mole. The DRM arms race is a tedious cycle that’s all-too-familiar to PC gamers, and Oculus is diving headfirst into that empty pool.

oculus rift consumer shipping
This is something that many early Oculus Rift preorderers still haven’t seen yet.

Meanwhile some of Oculus’s biggest fans don’t even have a Rift yet. Preorders are set to stretch through the entire summer. I bet some would-be apostles are using their Vive to play games they should’ve been playing on their Rift months ago.

And don’t get me started on how dismal the Oculus Store has been since launch. There’s a middle ground between the lawlessness of Oculus Share and the walled garden it’s running now. I’d wager less than a dozen games have been added to the Oculus Store since launch.

Is it because nobody’s making games? Well let’s briefly check Steam and—oh wow! There are dozens and dozens of Rift-ready games, sitting right alongside Vive games. Why aren’t those on the Oculus Store?

So post-launch, the Rift has been a disaster in terms of fulfilling preorders and in terms of adding content and—most of all—in terms of communicating with people. And the way the company wants to represent itself? By locking down its already woefully-underdeveloped storefront so that people with a competing headset can’t give Oculus money.

oculus home
The Oculus Home hub.

Because yes, let’s not ignore that aspect—people still need to buy these exclusive games from Oculus to play them on the Vive with Revive. They might not be buying a Rift but (unless they’re pirates, which is a whole different issue) Oculus is still selling software.

“Better plan: Add in DRM.” Damn it, Oculus. Your audience is one of the most technologically-sophisticated groups of people in the entire world. You created a gadget proselytized by nerds, created a community of savvy apostles who literally annoy would-be converts with their feverish “VR is the future and I will broach no dissent” attitude.


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