Meta doesn’t seem to know its VR headsets are game consoles

The Meta changed its name because it wanted you to forever associate it with the fledgling metaverse. The devices he produces are supposed to be our window into this metaverse. When you pick up a Meta Quest 2 headset and place it over your head, you’re bound to gasp and quietly wonder about this new virtual world. But I wore Meta Quest 2 to play Saber won or Tetris Or maybe Pistol whip. It’s not a terminal in the metaverse – it’s a game console. And I don’t think Meta realizes that.

Earlier this week, my fellow celebrity fan Alex Heath reported on the Meta VR and AR roadmap for headsets. There are smart glasses that look almost identical to those made by North in 2019, and only the Meta will be controlled via a neural interface when it launches in two years. There’s a very ambitious AR headset codenamed Orion that apparently “projects high-quality holograms of avatars onto the real world” and will be released in 2027. These projects are big, expensive flops for the Meta and porting it to the metaverse, and this should to be sexy. Just late last year we got our first big Metaverse swing set, and it was the then-$1499 Meta Quest Pro. The product was an absolute tool for a device. accompanying software, horizon world, So bad that even the people who make it don’t want to use it. This program is supposed to be the gateway to the metaverse. If it sucks, the Meta’s way of being on the metaverse is pretty stuck in water.

But as bad as Meta is in the metaverse so far, the company is really good at VR. Virtual reality is, of course, supposed to be a component of the metaverse, but judging by the current suite of products, that’s not the part Meta is very good at. It’s nice to make a console that people want to play games on. according to the edgeIn special reports, Mark Rapkin, Meta’s vice president of virtual reality, told employees that Meta has sold more than 20 million Quest headsets to date. This includes both the Quest and Quest 2. IDC previously estimated that Meta has sold around 15 million Quest 2 headsets, which likely means Quest 2 makes up the bulk of headsets sold. That seems like a small number, but the Nintendo GameCube has only sold 21 million consoles in its entire lifetime, and it’s estimated that the Xbox Series X and S have sold close to 20 million consoles to date.

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So if you look at the Quest 2, which most people use to play games, as a game console, it’s been reasonably done. And I think we need to look at it as a game console. The Meta may have great ambitions for its VR headset and its place in the metaverse, but the truth is that Quest 2’s best software is all games. Early adopters of virtual reality in the consumer space are buying headsets to play games. Devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR (which have sold about 5 million headsets by 2020) have been adopted by consumers for playing video games, not tinkering with them in the barely-there metaverse.

And the push for Quest 2 to be a metaverse device didn’t particularly resonate with consumers. Rapkin told staff that “unfortunately, the new collections coming in, the people who bought them last Christmas, weren’t as interested in them” as the early adopters. These early users were eager to play games, and this is what they saw when they put on the headset. New users see ads for things like horizon worldswhich, again, is such a mess that even the people who make it don’t want to play it.

And while Meta pushes metaverse experiences out to users, it kind of ignores the core player audience and doesn’t do much to build it up. Saber wonArguably, the killer VR app is four years old, and no other VR game has captured the zeitgeist in a similar way. People don’t see their friends playing cool games like Pistol whip and run out and buy Mission 2. If they did, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. The platform does not contain a file Super Mario Bros. or The last of us Leadership approval.

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Both Steam and Sony fully understand that killer AAA gaming experiences are essential to the VR platform. That’s why we have excellent titles like Half-life: Alex And Horizon appeal to the mountain. They invest as much in the software as they do in the hardware. Meta is not. She’s bought a lot of studios (incl Saber won‘s) and then did things like announce the launch of two-year-old games in Meta Connect or shut down the servers for one of the first multiplayer games on the platform. That latest move was so annoying that former Meta VR evangelist John Carmack publicly berated the company in a blog post:

Even if there are only ten thousand active users, this user value should be avoided if possible. Your company does more harm when you take something dear to the user than it gains by offering something of equal value or to others.

Carmack’s words are not only noteworthy because he’s the former chief technical advisor at Meta. He also helped build the video game industry and created massive and enduring successes such as deathAnd earthquakeAnd Wolfenstein 3D. Unlike Meta, Carmack seems to have realized that telling people you’re going to take their games to free up bandwidth to work on a metaide nobody particularly wants yet is a bad idea.

And boy, I wish Meta had that because it’s currently working on its third Quest headset, and if it were a gaming company, you might realize that it’s about to make the same mistake as other tech companies that have moved into game consoles.

The PS3’s price at launch was so high that it cost Sony crucial ground in its war against the Xbox 360, and in the US, it meant the Xbox 360 won the console wars of that generation. Quest 3 is expected to do the same – cost more than its predecessor at launch. While the Meta hasn’t announced a price for Quest 3, Rabkin told staff that it’s expected to cost consumers “a little more money” than Quest 2 currently costs. Incidentally, Quest 2 now costs more than it did at launch. So while the base model of the Quest 2 initially started at $299, the Quest 3 will cost more than $399 at launch.

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Meta hopes to explain this price hike by going over all the great features of Quest 3 versus Quest 2. “We have to prove to people that all of this power, all of these new features are worth it,” Rabkin told staff. And according to his presentation, which my colleague Alex Heath talked about, the plan is to show this in mixed reality. “The main North Star of the team has been from the moment you put this headset on, Mixed Reality should make it better, easier and more natural.”

This plan to focus on something new and different rather than the games that made the console thrive is very similar to what Microsoft did when it launched the Xbox One. This device came with an infrared blaster! It had a coax line so you could use it as a cable box. Microsoft has positioned the Xbox One as a home theater PC that also plays games. And the players just went and bought a Playstation 4 instead.

If the goal is to build an audience of mixed reality rather than a more expensive console that focuses on less proof-of-concept experiences, games are unlikely to do so, especially when you consider that the current big, expensive mixed reality headset performs so poorly that it drops in price after five Only months after its launch. A fourth headset is expected to be coming in 2024, Rabkin said, that would “pack the biggest punch possible at the most attractive price point in the consumer virtual reality market”. But in 2023 it looks like we will be facing a very expensive game console that wants to take us on a journey that most people are not yet interested in.

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