Oculus has reaffirmed it’s working on a new version of its PC-based Rift hardware. That affirmation follows a report from TechCrunch suggesting the cancellation of the “Rift 2” was behind the sudden departure of Oculus co-founder and former CEO Brendan Iribe, announced just yesterday.
Iribe, who stepped down as CEO to help lead Oculus’ PC/Rift division in late 2016, announced his departure from the company on Facebook Monday. Iribe said he was “deeply proud and grateful for” the work he’d done with Oculus and that “although we’re still far from delivering the magical smart glasses we all dream about, now they are nearly within our reach.” That said, leaving the company “will be the first real break I’ve taken in over 20 years,” he wrote. “It’s time to recharge, reflect, and be creative.”
The TechCrunch report, though, cites an unnamed source “close to the matter” in saying Iribe had actually grown frustrated with “fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time” and was concerned about a “race to the bottom” in terms of performance. That suggests Iribe may not have been happy with the increased focus on the recently announced Oculus Quest, a $ 400 standalone headset powered by a mobile system-on-a-chip.
The official line
Oculus Communications Manager Andrea Schubert told Ars directly that “we are planning a future version of Rift,” when asked to comment on the TechCrunch report. She also pointed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech at last month’s Oculus Connect, where he said, “when we release the next version of Rift—which isn’t today, by the way—all of the content that works for Rift is going to work on the next version, too. This means that every generation we build is going to build to this threshold [emphasis added].”
Schubert said that, while Oculus isn’t “quite ready to talk about the next version of Rift” right now, the company is still investing in PC VR. More details of that investment “across product and content” will “manifest next year,” she added.
Oculus co-founder and Head of Rift Nate Mitchell, who worked alongside Iribe leading the PC/Rift team, will continue in that role, Schubert said. Mitchell tweeted yesterday that “we’re still driving forward on the Rift/PC platform with new hardware, software, and content [emphasis added].”
That lines up with what Mitchell told Ars in an interview at the Connect conference. That’s when he said Oculus plans to “invest in these three product platforms [Go, Quest, and Rift] for the forseeable future, multiple generational timelines.”
“Don’t worry; we’re super-committed to Rift,” Mitchell continued in our interview. “I’m personally super-committed to Rift. [Iribe] is, too… I know people want to see future hardware iterations. They’re going to have to wait a little longer. Today is all about Quest, [but] we have future plans for PC. They’re super exciting. It’s where I’m spending the majority of my time [emphasis added].”
It’s possible that TechCrunch’s insider source is correct and that Oculus’ official messaging is hiding the truth about the future of the Rift hardware line. Still, that official word, coming from multiple senior sources across the company, amounts to a rather forceful denial when more guarded and limited statements (à la “we have nothing to announce regarding Rift at this time”) could have sufficed. If a new version of the Rift isn’t currently in the works, Oculus is putting up quite the brave (and counterproductive) front for the sake of PC VR fans.