Oculus Reverses DRM Course After Public Backlash

from the power-to-the-vr-people dept

Weeks back, Karl Bode wrote about the curious position Oculus Rift had taken in updating its software to include system-checking DRM. VR headset technology and game development, experiencing the first serious attempt at maturity in years, needs an open ecosystem in which to develop. What this DRM essentially did was remove the ability for games designed to run on the Rift from running on any other VR headset, with a specific targeting of community-built workarounds like Revive, which allowed HTC Vive owners to get Rift games running on that headset. Oculus, it should be noted, didn't announce the DRM aspect of the update; it just spit out the update and the public suddenly learned that programs like Revive no longer worked.

The backlash, to put it mildly, was swift and severe. Oculus having been acquired by Facebook likely didn't help what were already negative perceptions, supercharging the outcry with allegations of the kind of protectionism and the lack of care for the public that Facebook has enjoyed for roughly ever. Still, many saw the whole thing as peons screaming at a feudal lord: Oculus would simply ignore the whole thing. Just weeks ago, in fact, Oculus was working journalists at E3 in defense of the DRM.

The problem, [Oculus Head of Content Jason] Rubin said, comes with the wholesale distribution of a hack like Revive to the whole community, rather than to a few individuals. "[A personal hack] is a far cry difference from an institutional tool made and distributed to a mass number of people to [support other headsets], strip out DRM, strip out platform features and the like. For an individual to do that for themselves, that would be all right. Mass distribution is an entirely different situation."

No explanation on why the level of access to the workaround makes all the difference appears to have been offered, but it seems likely that the company didn't want to appear to be going after gamers and tinkerers, only larger development outfits. If so, the attempt didn't work, because software like Revive was in high demand. This is to be expected, as VR is just now starting to sprout from the seeds laid long ago, with impressive but limited options for both hardware and games to run on that hardware. Those limitations mean that any attempt at exclusivity being tied to hardware that is relatively expensive walls off each of the gardens and limits access and interest. For a technology still in its early stages, this would only stifle growth. Hence, the anger from the public.

Anger which appears to have worked, contrary to what some had thought. As silently as Oculus rolled out the DRM, it has now spit out an update which rolls it back. The world found out about it not from Oculus itself, which curiously didn't want to capitalize on some good press for once, but from Revive's development team.

The Oculus team has reversed course on one of its most unpopular decisions since launching the Rift VR headset in April: headset-specific DRM. After weeks of playing cat-and-mouse to block the "Revive" workaround, which translated the VR calls of Oculus games to work smoothly and seamlessly inside of the rival HTC Vive, Oculus quietly updated its hardware-specific runtime on Friday and removed all traces of that controversial DRM.

What's more, Oculus didn't mention the change in its runtime update notes, which are curiously future-dated one day forward on Saturday, June 25. The news instead broke when Revive's head developer posted a note on the project's Github download page. "I've only just tested this and I'm still in disbelief," the unnamed LibreVR developer wrote. Accordingly, the Revive team has since removed the patch's DRM-disabling feature, which had later been implemented as an extreme measure to make Oculus games play on the HTC Vive.

It appears that even when Oculus chooses to listen to its fans and potential customers, it can't be bothered to do so publicly. This strips its ability to claim credit for the move, credit which it desperately needs after several negative news cycles. Still, the company's PR ineptitude aside, it's a nice lesson in what public backlash and shaming can do to pressure a company to be a little more open.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Jun 2016 @ 6:06pm

    Big Problem with Oculus

    Their owner.


    That, and that alone will keep me from ever becoming a customer. Competitors...maybe.

    I await not only true usability, but some depth in offerings (software, and maybe not just games) oh, and customer friendly vendors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 24 Jun 2016 @ 6:41pm

    Enjoy!

    Facebook will wait a while, apply a little bit of lube and stick it back in slowly.

    "It's okay, it'll all be over soon."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2016 @ 6:50pm

    While this is good news (less DRM is pretty much always good news), I'm still left with a sour taste in my mouth. This incident has me feeling my qualms around Oculus's purchase by Facebook were probably correct.

    I don't expect my TV to limit the programs I want to watch, ever. For that matter, I also have zero interest in having my TV report home details on what, when and where I watch content. Don't pull this shit, and maybe we can talk about adopting VR.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2016 @ 6:59pm

    I won't be buying an Oculus brand. Period. They have already demonstrated that what you bought isn't yours. Why would I want to spend money on something like that? In 2 years they may again have a change of heart.

    If I buy something I expect it to work till it wears out. Oculus has already ruined it's reputation and I am not about to believe it won't do it again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2016 @ 8:30pm

    Should be too late...

    Every time a company does this it is clear they do not have customer interest as part of their decision processes. They will never have it back once lost.

    Continuing to use Facebook or its products is just an endorsement of their fucked up existence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2016 @ 3:24am

    Why silent?

    I don't get it... Sure they made an error in judgement of their customers and how much they wanted a more open community, which was very very bad. There is an interview on Gamespot with a PR lady who basicly act like a drone and was unable to answer any questions about this in any satisfactory manner, and they even got Palmer, who was so enthusiastic in the beginning, to do an interview where he went against everything he had said before Facebook.
    This is bad of course, but what the heck is it that makes it so freaking hard to admit an error and say that you regret that error?
    They could have gained at least a little good will back from their potential customers. But like our politicians, they are so afraid to say that they did the wrong thing that they'll hang themselves with that rope in the end.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 25 Jun 2016 @ 6:13am

      Re: Why silent?

      The only possible reason that comes to mind is that someone with a lot of clout and/or money was pushing for the DRM and they're afraid of getting on the wrong side of them by pulling the DRM, and so are trying to keep it quiet.

      Still stupid, but it would at least make some sense, as otherwise staying silent isn't doing them any favors for the reasons you mentioned.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      scatman, 27 Jun 2016 @ 7:36am

      Re: Why silent?

      Proverbs 16:18
      Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

      Why silent? Because proud people don't like to apologize or admit fault.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Skeeter, 25 Jun 2016 @ 11:57am

    Old Sayings

    The 'viewer' hasn't really ever been a part of the equation for any entertainment method since WWII. While it did, somewhat, enter into consideration in the pre-70's (due to the need for viewership numbers related to advertising dollars), the tail now 'wags-the-dog', with full intentions of having media 'drive viewer demands', versus viewer numbers 'driving show content'.

    VR is just another facet of this, and with DRM, it plays out as expected. Just remember, when considering the 'ease-of-access' and pending use of 'cheaper-than-expected' pricing for VR hardware-software in the market, one thing is most-certain; and that is the old advertising adage: "if the product is offered free, or at a loss, then the actual market is the viewer". This has worked for Google, Facebook and mainstream media - why would you think VR to be any different. It's about playing you and controlling you through the economic driver, silly, THAT'S THE MARKET!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 5:30am

    somebody asked me the other day why i don't facebook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Apr 2017 @ 5:22am

    Dude it's not about being more open. They're a business in competition with two other businesses. I don't see what the big deal is. They are just trying to get their product to sell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.