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Oculus Remains Silent After Community, Dev Backlash Over Luckey Funding Anti-Hillary Memes (Update: Luckey Makes Statement)

Update: 9/23/2016, 7:30pm PT: Palmer Luckey issued a statement late Friday evening in which he denied the allegations that he is the man behind the "NimbleRichMan" Reddit account. Luckey acknowledged donating money to the Nimble America organization, but he said that he is not an employee or founder of the group.

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

The authors of the Daily Beast article, Gideon Resnick and Ben Collins, take some issue with Luckey's statement. They posted screenshots on Twitter of emails they said they exchanged with Luckey in the course of their research.

Original story

News of Palmer Luckey’s alleged involvement with anti-Hillary meme factory, Nimble America, broke late on Thursday, and it left the VR industry shocked and confused. Many people didn’t take kindly to the revelation, including a handful of developers that have decided to boycott Oculus in response.

The story originates from The Daily Beast. The article alleges that Nimble America, which describes itself as a “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit dedicated to shitposting in real life,” is backed by Oculus’ founder, Palmer Luckey. The Daily Beast said that Luckey himself confirmed that he is the man behind the curtain. Whether Luckey is backing Nimble America or not, the damage from this news has already begun.

In an ongoing thread on the /r/Oculus subreddit, which has well over 3,100 comments already, people are discussing their opinions on the matter, and it’s fair to say that the community is divided on the subject. Some folks feel that Luckey’s political views have no bearing on their purchase or development decisions, whereas others have gone so far as to boycott Oculus.

Scruta Games, an independent VR developer, is putting its foot down in protest. The company announced that it cancelled Oculus support for its games until Palmer Luckey resigns from the company. In response to criticism, the developer added, "It’s not about 'politics,' it’s about the face of a company financially backing racist trolls. He is free to vote for whoever he pleases."

Tomorrow Today Labs, which created NewtonVR (a set of physics instructions for Unity developers) alerted Oculus to its displeasure via a tweet. The Seattle-based developer said that as long as Luckey still works for Oculus, NewtonVR won’t support Oculus Touch, which may affect Felt Tip Circus and AltspaceVR’s ability to support Touch through Steam.

Montreal-based Polytron, which is gearing up to launch SUPERHYPERCUBE alongside Sony’s PSVR on October 13, declared that it would no longer be porting the game over to the Oculus platform:

“You may have seen the news yesterday that ties Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey to Nimble America, a Trump-endorsing organization Luckey started to defame Clinton via "the power of Internet memes." In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one, we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform.In light of this, we will not be pursuing Oculus support for our upcoming VR release, SUPERHYPERCUBE.If you are a voting citizen of the United States, please remember to register and make your voice heard this November 8th. Do not let bigotry, white supremacy, hate and fear win."Kokoromi & Polytron

SoundStageVR also showed its dissatisfaction with Luckey’s actions, but instead of boycotting the company’s platform, SoundStageVR is redirecting its profits from a 24-hour period to the Clinton campaign.

The news about Palmer Luckey’s involvement with Nimble America and its aims is a PR nightmare for the already beleaguered VR company, and curiously, so far Oculus has gone dark in response. We've reached out to the company for comment but have received no response. The official Oculus Twitter account has nothing on the issue. Luckey's personal Twitter account is silent. 

To be clear, though, the only real source for most of this information about Luckey is from the Daily Beast article, in which its authors noted that their sources were being scrubbed even as the article was being written. Without being able to verify the allegations fully ourselves, we would not deign to speculate to much on their veracity (which is also not to impugn the integrity of the article's authors, Gideon Resnick and Ben Collins). But when something like this breaks two things are likely: First, there is a team scrambling to figure out how to manage the damage and put together the best possible messaging, and second, if an entire day has gone by with no response, there is either truth to the allegations or a complicating truth that needs to be worked around. 

Oculus met repeated setbacks and public outcry over the cost of the Rift hardware, shipping woes, and the continued lack of Touch announcements. As the company approaches OC3, its third annual developer conference, the last thing it should be doing is upsetting the developers that are willing to take the early risk on virtual reality.