Back in September at Oculus Connect 5, Facebook unveiled the Oculus Quest, a standalone VR headset with a lot going for it. Competitively priced, with no PC needed and no external cables, the Oculus Quest seemed like the next evolutionary step for the virtual reality industry. For many, it was the tipping point for making VR mainstream.
The months ticked by, with no word on the release date until F8, when the Oculus Quest and Rift S was revealed to be available from May 21. While many fans were disappointed that it would not be shadow dropped like the Oculus Go, the announcement tied with the embargo lifting on reviews. As Oculus said later, this was intended to push preorders and excitement for its imminent release.
May 21 arrived, and social media exploded with excitement. Fans proudly displayed their Oculus Quest boxes like fishermen displaying their catch, beaming and happy. Fans fell in love with the headset and rifled through its launch titles.
It seems like the hype was met. But will it continue?
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How hyped was the Oculus Quest?
VR fans had been expecting the VR headset for years, under its original name Santa Cruz. Initial reports said that it was an all-in-one headset with needed no external computer or trackers, and would be competitively priced. This countered the main criticisms of VR, which was price, barriers of entry, and ease of setup. In response, fans became excited about the next headset, seeing it as the natural evolution of VR.
The Oculus Quest was revealed in September, alongside a series of demos which demonstrated its capabilities. A tennis court which scaled to the user; a room-scale shooting experience; and the ability to just pick up and play. Previews rattled through the internet, with positive overviews of the Oculus Quest and its features. Now people were excited to play it themselves and eagerly awaited its release date.
It was no mistake that Facebook wanted to reveal the headset three weeks after the final reveal date. The company wanted to use the positive reception they have, and drive it towards preorders for a boost in initial sales numbers. Review embargoes dropped three weeks ahead of its release, alongside preorder links. Fans became excited and proudly posted on social media that they preordered the headset. For a time, it was the top-selling feature on Amazon. The plan worked, and the Oculus Quest became the most wanted VR headset in the industry’s history.
Did the Oculus Quest meet the hype?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive for the company. The headset worked as advertised, and fans enjoyed playing the bundled demos. There have been very few negatives tied to the release, save for an audio buffering issue in some cases. The Oculus Quest met the expectations of those who preordered it, with fireworks and joy.
Over the next few days, Oculus and its publishers are expected to reveal the sales figures of their software titles. It is likely that there has been a spike in sales, and a new batch of fans who have been welcomed into the VR ecosystem. The results will likely be positive.
A new ecosystem for the VR headset
In my opinion, the hype will likely continue because it may have kick-started the self-fulfilling ecosystem VR needs to grow.
Imagine several thousand new people who enter VR with the help of the Oculus Quest. Drawn in, the people may want more content to whet their appetites. In response, software developers will push out new titles or ports to satiate their desire to try more content out. , in turn, drives more revenue in the industry and create a self-fulfilling cycle of happy fans and happy developers.
Currently, Facebook heavily funds the ecosystem with its own finances, hoping to create a new industry which can work by itself. Once that happens, then every single person will have to go through Facebook’s headset and store, driving revenue for the company in a monopoly-like system.
How can the Oculus Quest continue to grow?
Now that the Oculus Quest has the framework for growth, it just needs to continue its trajectory.
The first step is a regular schedule of VR releases. There cannot be a drought in content, or people will turn off the headset and never come back. There needs to be continual value in VR, to keep people interested.
Facebook can contribute to this by financing significant new exclusives. Vader Immortal is a great example, bringing Star Wars fans into the ecosystem. Similar to Sony and Microsoft, high-budget exclusives drive hardware and software sales.
The last factor is time. Change does not happen overnight, and brand loyalty doesn’t come in a day. It takes a steady hand and continual building of trust to make people attach to something new, with regular updates and excellent community management.
With all the new fans coming through, the amount of advertising Facebook is pushing, and the likely increase in sales for VR developers, that time may be now. With a steady flow of new titles over time, the Oculus Quest is ready to survive.
Barriers which may come up may include HTC moving away from enterprise products and providing a more consumer-end version of their VIVE. Though with the release of the Vive Pro Eye, all arrows point to them continuing their current trajectory.
Is VR now mainstream? Ask again in a few months, but the Oculus Quest might have tipped the scales to Facebook’s favour.
Editor, Virtual Perceptions