Whether or not it was voluntary is unknown
Come April 1, Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey will no longer be a part of the business he helped create. Parent company Facebook has confirmed that this is Luckey’s last week at both Facebook and Oculus.
The story was broke by UploadVR, which was given this quote from Oculus about Luckey: “Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”
That quote only tells one side of the story, though. Yes, Luckey did play a major role in the advent of virtual reality. He was also a public relations nightmare after it came to light that he anonymously bankrolled a right-wing meme-fueled anti-Hillary Clinton movement. The backlash was immediate and forceful; several developers vowed to cancel Oculus support for their games until Luckey resigned from his position.
Luckey has lain low in the half-year since that happened. Facebook obviously hasn’t gone on record to say that it told Luckey to “shut the fuck up and don’t open your fucking mouth again until we say you can” but the silence is telling. He quickly went from the poster child and mouthpiece of an entire technological field to a relative recluse.
Facebook wouldn’t confirm if Luckey’s departure was voluntary or not, citing a policy to not discuss internal matters. The move likely wasn’t based around fiscal timing, as Facebook’s year lines up with the calendar year; many companies’ fourth quarter ends on March 31, but Facebook’s ends on December 31. Regardless, it’d take tremendous naivety to think there wasn’t any internal pressure to oust him.
Luckey is only 24 years old and is worth something like three-quarters of a billion dollars. He has a lot of life ahead of him, and this is almost certainly not the last time we’ll hear his name. But, for now at least, his legacy will be that of an important pioneer of virtual reality and also a giant black eye on the technology he helped bring to prominence.