A week after Facebook finalized its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus, ZeniMax — Bethesda’s (and therefore Id Software’s) parent company — is pursuing legal action against Oculus, claiming they own the work John Carmack did on the Oculus Rift while still an employee at Id Software. They argue without that work, Oculus would not have attracted Facebook’s attention.
ZeniMax claims to have a non-disclosure agreement signed by Palmer Luckey, Oculus’s founder, that prevents Oculus from disclosing such information.
It’s hard to know if this is legit, but Re/code claims to have a copy of the non-disclosure agreement. It contains clauses about ZeniMax owning research data and prototype work.
I’m no lawyer, so I don’t know if this is trouble for Oculus, but it’s obviously a money grab. Oculus hired Michael Abrash from Valve, a company seriously pursuing a VR program, and we haven’t heard any backlash about that. The only person seriously pursuing VR at ZeniMax was Carmack. From my perspective, taking credit for his personal passion is sleazy, even if they can prove a sound legal argument.
I don’t know if VR is the future of gaming, but Oculus is the first to sell it as a mass-market possibility. I want the Rift to make it to retail, and having legal issues like this may prolong the process. Hopefully this issue is sorted out quickly.