John Carmack is leaving Meta

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Carmack, known for his work in VR and on classic games like Doom and Quake, is stepping down from his consulting CTO role at Meta.

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John Carmack, a titan of the technology industry known for his work on virtual reality as well as classic games like Doom and Quake, is stepping down from his role as a consulting CTO at Meta, according to Business Insider and The New York Times.

Carmack originally joined Oculus as CTO in 2013, after helping to promote the original Oculus Rift prototypes that he received from Palmer Luckey, and got pulled into Meta when the company (then Facebook) acquired Oculus in 2014. However, in 2019, he took a reduced role at the company, stepping down as the CTO of Oculus to move into a new consulting CTO role.

At the time, he said he was going to go work on artificial general intelligence — and this August, we learned that work would not be for Meta, but rather his new startup Keen Technologies. Carmack had been giving about 20 percent of his time to Meta, he tweeted in August.

Based on messages he left internally at Meta, he seems to be unhappy with the way things are currently going in VR. He reportedly wrote that things have been a “struggle” for him, and that even though “I have a voice at the highest levels here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I’m evidently not persuasive enough,” The New York Times reported.

“We built something pretty close to the right thing,” Carmack reportedly wrote about the Quest 2. He also apparently said that he “wearied of the fight” with Meta, which is burning billions in its Reality Labs division to build things like VR headsets and software for its vision of the metaverse. Carmack would also write internal posts criticizing CEO Mark Zuckerberg and CTO Andrew Bosworth’s decision making, The New York Times wrote.

It’s not the first time Carmack has been unhappy with Meta’s priorities for VR. The company also killed off his mobile efforts with the Samsung Gear VR — “we missed an opportunity,” he said at the time — and the low-cost Oculus Go, both of which were his projects.

He was also remarkably candid about his frustrations in his unscripted talk at Meta Connect this October, saying “there’s a bunch that I’m grumpy about” in virtual reality. He pointed out how it’s difficult for users to quickly update headsets, and seemed very skeptical about its progress with Horizon Worlds as a social platform and about Meta’s decision to raise prices for the Quest 2 and the introduction of a $1,500 Quest Pro. “I’ve always been clear that I’m all about the cost-effective mass-market headsets being the most important thing for us and for the adoption of VR,” he said.

You can watch that full unscripted talk below.

Meta and Carmack didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment. Carmack will apparently now focus his efforts on Keen Technologies.

Carmack also co-founded id Software, known for games like Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, and Commander Keen, in 1991. The studio was purchased by Bethesda owner ZeniMax Media in 2009. ZeniMax and id sued Oculus and Luckey in 2014 for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets, and the complaint frequently noted Carmack’s role assisting Oculus while he was still an employee at ZeniMax. The parties settled in 2018.

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