20 years ago, what happened to Oculus Rift owners today would have been impossible in the world of video games. So, maybe call it the price of progress — today, all Oculus Rift headsets stopped working in a temporary outage that, if nothing else, is staggering in its scale.
That’s not an exaggeration — if you own an Oculus Rift VR headset anywhere in the world, you haven’t been able to use it since this morning. Complaints started popping up on Reddit earlier today, with Rift owners everywhere understandably upset that the thing they paid a lot of money for was, at least at present, about as useful as the box it came in. Neowin first reported the ultimate cause of the outage — an expired software certificate that wasn’t updated on Oculus’s side.
Without venturing too far into the weeds, software certificates are an important security feature — it’s a way for Windows to recognize third party software as genuine and free of tampering. In theory, if a hacker somehow tampered with system files to siphon off private data, Windows wouldn’t recognize the program as authentic. But, just like we’re supposed to be changing our passwords every once in a while as good security practice, certificates expire and need to be updated to make sure everything stays secure. Someone at Oculus didn’t do that, and now Windows won’t run the Oculus software. That’s why VR fans are stuck with decorative headsets today.
Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell has been active today on Reddit and Twitter, but it’s mostly amounted to him saying that Oculus is aware of the situation and working on a fix. As of now, there hasn’t been one, and figuring it out won’t be easy — Oculus Rift units can’t run at all right now, so it’s not going to be as simple as pushing out a software update.
We're aware of an issue affecting Rift on PC, and we're working on resolving now. Stay tuned.
— Nate Mitchell (@natemitchell) March 7, 2018
Not that there’s ever a good time for this to happen, but right now is particularly bad — or at least ironic. A big price cut last year had been helping Oculus gain on other VR headsets, and it was just yesterday that Oculus finally passed its nearest rival, the HTC Vive, in popularity per Steam’s February 2018 Hardware & Software Survey. Today’s mishap won’t help them secure a repeat performance this month.
It’s important to think about the other side of the problem, too — not only can Rift owners not use their sets, Rift developers are now extremely limited in the amount of work they can accomplish. Without being able to test anything, they’ll also be left in the lurch, a problem that will become more serious the longer it takes Oculus to figure out a fix — something that, as of the time this article is being published, hasn’t happened yet.