Palmer Luckey, the person most directly associated with Oculus’ emergence as a major force in the growing world of virtual reality hardware, has left parent company Facebook, according to a statement to Ars Technica by a Facebook representative:
Palmer will be sorely missed. Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive mind helped spark the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re grateful for everything he’s done for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.
Facebook declined to clarify further details about Luckey’s departure and did not specify whether Luckey would issue an official statement on the matter.
Having been a key face of the company since the unveiling of Oculus’s first public prototype in 2012, Luckey’s public role at the company has been greatly diminished since September, when he was financially linked to a strange Donald Trump-backed” shitposting” group. Luckey was quick to apologize for the impact the reveal had on the rest of Oculus as a company after a vocal response from some in the VR community. Luckey failed to appear at Oculus’ annual Connect conference last September after taking a keynote spot at the previous Connect events.
Luckey briefly appeared at a lawsuit in January in which id Software owner Zenimax Media accused Oculus of embezzling trade secrets. While Oculus was cleared of the worst charges, the company was found liable for $300 million on several related charges. Luckey himself was held personally liable for $50 million in damages.
As the company’s founder and majority shareholder, Luckey received a significant portion of the $2 billion in cash and stock that Facebook used in 2014 to buy Oculus. — wrote the old Luckey at the time. “As I learned more about the company and its vision and spoke with [CEO Mark Zuckerberg]Not only did the collaboration make sense, but it also became the clear and obvious path to deliver virtual reality to everyone.”
Luckey’s departure comes just after the first anniversary of the consumer launch of its flagship product, the Rift, which came after years of more limited prototypes and developer kits. Just before that launch, Luckey apologized for the poor reception of the headset’s initial asking price of $600, which he had previously said would be “on the margins” of the $350 development kits. “I handled the messages badly,” Luckey wrote at the time. “[We assumed] we had been clear enough about setting expectations.”
A report from Superdata analysts estimates that Oculus shipped about 240,000 of its $600 Rift headsets in 2016, before a price drop this month. Samsung’s Gear VR, which includes technology developed by Oculus, has shipped more than 5 million headsets, though many of them were given out for free to Samsung phone buyers.
Sam Machkovech contributed to this report.