When it released the Rift DK1 in 2012, the Oculus team was seen as the little startup darling that could finally make virtual reality an actual reality — and it was going to do it with a community-based effort. When it was snatched up by Facebook, founder Palmer Luckey made it clear “a million times” that Oculus wasn’t going to build a VR walled garden. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Oculus’s openness has its limits. Motherboard reports that the latest update to Oculus’ DRM shuts out a third-party patch called Revive, which allowed users to play VR games purchased through the Oculus store on other headsets, like the HTC Vive. (Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of how it works from Ars Technica.)
Of course, Oculus doesn’t call it a “patch”, but rather a hack. In that same Ars article, Oculus says “we don’t condone it” and that “users should expect that hacked games won’t work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software”.
A little more than a month later Revive is kaput. After the most recent Oculus update, when an Oculus-purchased game runs on your PC, the DRM checks to see if a Rift is also plugged in. If not, the game won’t play.
As Motherboard points out, this DRM change reflects the standards of the gaming industry. For example, Microsoft does everything it can to prevent you from playing Halo on a PS4. Still, it feels at least somewhat out of line with Luckey’s public statements about maintaining an open VR community.
And that VR community is none too pleased.
Oculus now blocks Revive from working in new Oculus Home DRM update. What a dick move.— fwd (@fightwithdogma) May 20, 2016
Oculus now uses DRM to lock out competition. Yay! I think I am starting to regret that I have supported the KS :(… https://t.co/UT3s0lXJHN— Jan Ciger (@janoc200) May 20, 2016
@oculus your ideas and technology had me entranced. It was love at first stereoscopic sight. Then you abused me. You locked me down w DRM. ?— Soft E (@eanbowman) May 20, 2016
@PalmerLuckey Why does the Oculus store DRM check for a Rift headset, when you said that it was okay to mod games to run on other headsets?— Chris Barr (@csbarr) May 20, 2016
Screenshot from Oculus message boards
Oculus told Gizmodo that the update is meant to battle piracy and protect developers’ games and that Oculus “take[s] the security, functionality and integrity of our system software very seriously”.
Cutting out this particular mod isn’t that surprising. After all, Oculus explicitly stated that it probably wouldn’t last long. But be warned: more aggressive DRM is definitely coming.