Batten down the hatches and/or anything else you frequently batten down in times of crisis; we've got yet another titanic clash of gaming companies on our hands. Last week Bethesda/id Software parent company Zenimax claimed that virtual reality giant Oculus Rift owes it some sort of licensing deal because of the VR tech and code John Carmack developed while working for both companies. At the time, Oculus issued a curt statement essentially saying it disagreed. Now, however, it's decided to put together a fighting word sundae of individual claims, with a few fighting words sprinkled on top.
Among other things, Zenimax alleged that Oculus was using code/tech that was technically Zenimax property and that Oculus Genius The Younger Palmer Luckey went so far as to acknowledge this in writing. Oculus directly disputed those claims and more in a statement issued to RPS.
We are disappointed but not surprised by Zenimax’s actions and we will prove that all of its claims are false. In the meantime, we would like to clarify a few key points:
- There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products.
- John Carmack did not take any intellectual property from Zenimax.
- Zenimax has misstated the purposes and language of the Zenimax non-disclosure agreement that Palmer Luckey signed.
- A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company.
- Zenimax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused Zenimax’s demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus.
- Zenimax did not pursue claims against Oculus for IP or technology, Zenimax has never contributed any IP or technology to Oculus, and only after the Facebook deal was announced has Zenimax now made these claims through its lawyers.
- Despite the fact that the full source code for the Oculus SDK is available online (developer.oculusvr.com), Zenimax has never identified any ‘stolen’ code or technology.
So there's that. It's more or less everything Zenimax said contested point-for-point. Oculus' declaration that all of Zenimax's claims are pointless is especially, er, pointed. There's no middle ground here, and it doesn't seem like either company is willing to give an inch - let alone a licensing deal. There's a good chance, then, that this one is headed to court.
I've reached out to Zenimax for comment in light of Oculus' new statement. I'll update this story when I have more.