Oculus co-founder and former CEO Brendan Iribe’s exit from the virtual reality developer on Monday came as a surprise to many. Iribe’s departing statement celebrated the company’s accomplishments and publicly relished the opportunity to step away from the 20-year development grind for a much needed vacation. However, that narrative was thrown into question claiming his departure was due to alleged Oculus Rift 2 cancellation.
The news comes from a recent TechCrunch report. Now, Oculus is pushing back against the cancellation claims, reaffirming support for the continued development of PC VR hardware within the Facebook-owned company. Speaking to Ars Technica, Oculus communications director Andrea Schubert said the company is still “planning a future version of Rift,” pointing to comments made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at last month’s Oculus Connect development conference. Zuckerberg referred to the “next version of Rift” multiple times during his keynote at the gathering.
The public reassurance of the next Rift’s fate flies in the face of reports from sources within Oculus about the company’s future plans. Those sources claim that the Rift 2’s cancellation was a by-product of a shift in focus to all-in-one headsets that don’t require external devices, such as PCs and phones, to fully function. This initiative first surfaced with the May release of the $199 Oculus Go standalone headset and the announcement of another all-in-one headset, the $399 Oculus Quest. The Quest is of special interest as the shift in focus to that system in particular reportedly hastened Iribe’s frustrations, and ultimately his split, with the company.
The decision reportedly generated friction between Iribe and Facebook executives as he saw a focus on standalone devices like the Oculus Quest as a “race to the bottom” in VR hardware performance.
Iribe’s Rift development partner and Oculus co-founder, Nate Mitchell, supported Schubert’s claims via Twitter on Monday, stating that the company is “still driving forward on the Rift/PC platform with new hardware, software, and content.” The tweet supported past claims by Mitchell regarding hardware development at Oculus. “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,” Mitchell told Ars Technica last month.
The statements coming from Facebook regarding the Oculus Rift 2 cancellation rumors are uncharacteristically forceful, giving more credence to the survival of PC VR hardware development within Oculus. Despite that, the reported friction between Iribe and higher-ups at Oculus’s parent company is just the latest in a trend of heads of Facebook-acquired startups butting heads with the powers at be. Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum left Facebook in the last six months due to increased tensions and disagreements with company executives.
While the truth regarding the Rift 2’s fate and the motivations surrounding Iribe’s exit are yet to be fully confirmed, Schubert says the company will have more to say regarding PC VR development at Oculus in the future, stating that more details will “manifest next year.”