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Oculus silently reverses course on its DRM strategy, removes lockouts from Oculus Store

For the past few weeks, there’s been a storm swirling in virtual reality between Oculus and HTC Vive owners. Last month, Oculus rolled out a DRM solution as part of the Oculus Store’s software. The purpose of the patch was to make it impossible to play Oculus Store games on headsets like HTC’s Vive, even if the games in question were legally purchased. The company has now reversed course on this strategy and removed the DRM lockout.

Oculus, however, hasn’t done anything to make that change public. The news came instead from the developers of the Revive project, which aimed to allow HTC Vive owners to play Oculus Store titles. Initially, Revive only allowed gamers to play titles they’d legally purchased. But when Oculus added its own DRM lockout, the Revive developers responded by implementing workarounds that allowed Oculus Store games to be pirated and run on HTC Vive headsets. While this wasn’t the original intent of the Revive project, it was the only way to maintain cross-platform headset compatibility.

With Oculus no longer using DRM, Revive has already been patched to remove the hooks that bypassed it and allowed players to pirate games. As recently as yesterday, Oculus head of developer strategy Anna Sweet was still defending the dubious argument that Palmer Luckey’s comments about allowing interoperability on the Oculus Store was meant solely to apply to individuals who got their own headsets working, but not any kind of larger software initiative.

“Yeah, I think Palmer’s original statements were more focused on individual customers, who buy a piece of content and they choose to mod it,” Sweet told Gamespot. “I think that’s separate from a systemic, platform-wide pack that rips out protections for developers on their content.”

Leaving aside Sweet’s mischaracterization of the nature of Revive, the entire affair left a bad taste in consumers’ mouths. The general view among VR enthusiasts is that the VR ecosystem needs to be as open as possible to ensure maximum adoption and support. Splitting support between various platforms makes it even harder for would-be VR gamers to justify the incredibly high cost of adopting both platforms. While Microsoft and Sony have both succeeded in building their own console ecosystems, there are huge amounts of overlap between what the two consoles can do — both support popular streaming applications like Netflix and support most of the same games.

The company separately confirmed it had removed all DRM from the Oculus Store and pledged to keep things that way in the future. “We believe protecting developer content is critical to the long-term success of the VR industry, and we’ll continue taking steps in the future to ensure that VR developers can keep investing in ground-breaking new VR content,” a company spokesperson told Ars Technica.

The company’s statements still seem to conflate protecting Oculus exclusives with helping VR developers build great VR content — two goals that aren’t mutually exclusive by any means. Developers may have been part of the reason Oculus changed its tune; we can’t imagine many companies were happy about the situation as it played out with Revive. Hopefully with this issue settled, we won’t see future efforts to split the nascent VR ecosystem between multiple vendors.

Oculus latest patch notes are available here. They don’t mention the DRM removal, but discuss several other issues with AMD, Nvidia, and Intel GPUs.

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