At Oculus Connect 6 during the keynote presentation, hosts mentioned the Oculus Quest less than the Oculus Rift S. Mark Zuckerburg’s main announcements revolved around improving the functionality of the Quest, via Oculus Link so it can play Rift games, and finger tracking for its systems. Then other members went onto the stage to announce more innovations, such as some Oculus Go apps being compatible with the system. The future looks bright, but for one particular type of VR headset.
It is clear that Facebook is focusing on the Oculus Quest, and their reasoning for why is sound. However, the company is also investing in the Rift S, at least for the next few years. But after a few years, it is possible that PCVR headsets will morph into something new. Meanwhile, a PC-only version will likely die out over the next few years.
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Why is Facebook focusing on the Oculus Quest?
For several years, the company has made clear that they have been building towards the Oculus Quest for several years, as the apex VR system of the generation. Their vision of the future is to remove as much unnecessary hardware as possible, to provide an untethered and free experience for all users. This means sacrificing computing power for an all-in-one VR headset, while focusing on ease of access.
The focus paid off. Facebook announced that the company has sold +$100m worth of software over the last few years. But 20% of the sales came from the Oculus Quest. This is striking, as the headset has been in the market for only four months.
The company has not yet released official figures for how many Oculus Quest units they have sold, only that they keep being sold at the same pace that they manufacture them. This could be a way to mask lower than expected sales numbers. But there is no question that there has been an Oculus Quest bump for new titles, such as SUPERHOT selling 300% more copies on the launch of the Quest than the Rift. Similar to the Nintendo Switch, ports are selling quickly.
Financially, the Oculus Quest is making a lot of money for the company; as such, the focus makes sense.
New tools for the Oculus Quest
So on the software side, there has been a bump in sales. But on the hardware side, Facebook is also improving the Oculus Quest’s ability to use other apps.
One key example is Oculus Link, which lets users play Rift games on the platform. This negates the need to buy a Rift S as people can simply buy an Oculus Quest for the same experience. Why buy an Oculus Rift S which forces users to sit down, when they can simply buy the Oculus Quest and have the best of both worlds?
Then there is the cross-functionality with Oculus Go apps. Users can play certain Go apps on the Quest, meaning that they can experience the best of the previous standalone headset on the new platform. This is another indication that they are focusing on one platform in this particular case.
New games for the Oculus Rift S
Surely this all means that Facebook is focusing on the Oculus Quest, while the Oculus Rift S is left to the background? Not quite.
Some of the largest and most impactful VR games coming over 2019 and 2020 are heading to the Oculus Rift S. Stormland and Asgard’s Wrath are both heading to the Rift platform this Autumn, while Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond will land on the same platform in 2020.
The games have impressive graphics, needing a lot of horsepower to provide the experiences. The games are not being downgraded to fit on the Oculus Quest (yet); they have been designed to work with only the best hardware.
If Facebook is focusing on the Oculus Quest, more titles would have been announced during the keynote presentation; but for their major studios, that is not the case. Gaming-wise, it focused on the Oculus Rift S.
Phasing the Oculus Rift S out
So it is clear that Facebook is supporting the Oculus Rift S for the next few years, developing hardcore gaming content for the platform. Does that mean the company will continue having three headsets in the next generation of VR? Or will the number collapse to just two, or maybe even one?
After the announcement of the Oculus Link, it is likely that the next generation will look very different. What is more likely is that there will be a single VR headset that is both standalone, can be brought on the go, and be hooked to a PC.
Time and time again, Facebook has indicated that they want to step away from PCs eventually to have headsets that do not need the bulky machines of power. Who can blame them; not all consumers have a powerful PC. The next-generation Oculus Quest would likely be more powerful, perhaps enough to run Stormland and Asgard’s Wrath. That way everybody wins, with software all coming onto one platform.
Take the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is now focusing its home console and portable development teams into one system, focusing on one platform rather than two. New software can come more regularly, and expertise can cross-pollinate across the company. The same will likely happen as the next-generation Oculus Quest might be the only headset.
Facebook’s plans for the future
The company is not abandoning the Oculus Rift S. A lot of time, effort, and money is being invested into the platform, providing the very best experiences for players. These games would be impossible to make for the current generation of VR.
But the future generation of portable VR headsets will likely be compatible with the high-end games, as their power improves. Once that happens, high-end games would be able to run anywhere outside the home. The company has indicated that they may want to merge them with the announcement of the Oculus Link, as the platforms come together. Once connected, the Oculus Quest acts like a PC-only headset.
This does not necessarily mean that developers will only focus on making portable games. Far from it. Developers would want the freedom to make grand and expressive experiences with as much power to draw on as possible. But it is likely that a PC only headset will not be present over the next few years, as portable versions can just be hooked onto PCs. The ecosystem is merging together.
In any case, congratulations to the Oculus Quest for continuing to rupture the market. It may not bury the Oculus Rift S in the long run, but the grave is starting to be dug.
Editor, Virtual Perceptions