The former face of Oculus hasn’t been seen or heard from in an official capacity since September 2016, and he won’t be making any more appearances on behalf of Oculus in the future: Palmer Luckey is leaving Oculus, effective March 31.
If it weren’t for Luckey, the VR industry might not exist as it does. We certainly wouldn’t have the Oculus Rift, and the Samsung Gear VR probably wouldn’t have happened if Oculus weren’t around to stir up buzz around VR and help bring VR technology to the mobile market. And if Oculus didn’t exist, Valve may have waited a lot longer before attempting to bring its VR tech to market. Indeed, anyone who enjoys virtual reality has a lot to thank Mr. Luckey for. But he will no longer be part of the future of the company he founded just a few years ago, and therefore he won’t have anything to do with the next stage of Oculus VR.
There was a time when you couldn’t read an article or watch a video talking about virtual reality without someone mentioning the inventor of the Rift. Every time Oculus had an announcement, you could bet that Luckey would make an appearance on stage. And, for a long time leading up to the release of the Rift hardware, you could count on Luckey to chime in on the /r/Oculus Reddit community with answers to questions from eager fans. After the Rift's launch, the founder stopped interacting on Reddit, but the lights didn't truly goout on his public communication until September 2016.
On September 23, 2016, The Daily Beast published a story that outed Palmer Luckey as a financial backer and potential founder of Nimble America, a pro-Donald Trump organization that paid for anti-Hillary Clinton advertisements. Luckey denied being a founding member of Nimble America, but he admitted to giving money to the organization in a statement that he posted on Facebook that evening:
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.
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.
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.
Palmer Freeman Luckey
That was the last time we heard from Luckey. Though he remained an employee of Facebook and part of Oculus, Luckey’s role within the company was never clear after the scandal, and he hasn't posted on social media since that day. He was also absent from the Oculus Connect 3 industry event, which took place weeks later. And he was nowhere to be found at the Oculus booth at GDC 2017.
As recently as December, Facebook and Oculus said that Luckey would remain a part of Oculus, but things may have changed after the bombshell judgment against Oculus, former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, and Luckey himself. The lawsuit left Oculus on the hook for $350 million, Iribe for $100 million, and Luckey for $50 million.
We don’t know the details behind Luckey’s departure. Oculus had this to say about Luckey's departure:
“Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer's legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and build an industry. We're thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”
Oculus representatives couldn’t comment further on the situation, but it’s hard to imagine that Luckey would walk away of his own accord.