What a difference an Internet uproar can make.
The Oculus team has reversed course on one of its most unpopular decisions since launching the Rift VR headset in April: headset-specific DRM. After weeks of playing cat-and-mouse to block the “Revive” workaround that translated the VR calls of Oculus games to work smoothly and seamlessly inside of the rival HTC Vive, Oculus quietly updated its hardware-specific runtime on Friday and removed all traces of that controversial DRM.
What’s more, Oculus didn’t mention the change in its runtime update notes, which are curiously future-dated one day forward on Saturday, June 25. The news instead broke when Revive’s head developer posted a note on the project’s Github download page. “I’ve only just tested this and I’m still in disbelief,” the unnamed LibreVR developer wrote. Accordingly, the Revive team has since removed the patch’s DRM-disabling feature, which had later been implemented as an extreme measure to make Oculus games play on the HTC Vive.
The news comes only one week after Oculus executives spoke to Ars in vehement defense of its hardware-locked DRM strategy. “[A personal hack] is a far cry difference from an institutional tool made and distributed to a mass number of people to [support other headsets], strip out DRM, strip out platform features and the like,” Oculus’ Jason Rubin told Ars at this year’s E3 conference. “For an individual to do that for themselves, that would be all right. Mass distribution is an entirely different situation.” Still, fans decried Oculus’ choice to block paying customers from testing Oculus software on other hardware, and they repeatedly pointed to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey’s frank statements on the issue months before the hardware launched. In particular, Luckey told Ars in March that “our goal is not to lock every piece of software to [the Oculus Rift headset].”
Since its creation, Revive has now become a more elegant patch system, complete with a SteamVR interface that Oculus game owners can use to pick out and load their Oculus games within the HTC Vive’s “chaperone” system. So long as users are running official Oculus software and its always-on runtimes, Revive patch users can expect to see their whole Oculus gaming collection selectable with the HTC Vive’s handheld wands. The only thing that remains to be seen is how Oculus reads the motion-tracked data from its upcoming handheld controller system, the Oculus Touch, and whether Revive will be able to do the same thing for the HTC Vive’s wands once Touch-compatible games launch later this year.
Shortly after publication, Oculus representatives confirmed to Ars Technica that the company had indeed removed any Rift hardware check from its runtimes in the latest update. The company further insisted that it “will not use hardware checks as part of DRM on PC in the future,” even though Ars hadn’t asked about whether this was a short-term change. “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,” the company told Ars.