Mark Zuckerberg has poured billions into his virtual reality dream, a new platform that Facebook owns.
Facebook bought oculus and has spent the last 5 years killing what it was and reinventing it as a Facebook-scale company. it has dumped most of the co-founders, brought in Zuck loyalists to take over the most important decisions and shifted towards accessibility over appeasing the company’s early supporters.
Facebook’s latest release is the realization of all that.
The company’s Quest product, which they released on Tuesday, offers a streamlined version of high-end virtual reality whereas leveraging time-honed software system to make the process of getting up-and-running immeasurably easier. It’s most likely the best VR product that’s been built yet, and one that has the mainstream firmly in view.
Facebook needs to lean in on the new device and move away from what got it there.
With past VR releases, there’s always been a key technology to blame or a key feature that was missing, however if the oculus Quest fails, Facebook may have to think about that the entire product category doesn’t hold the mass attractiveness it hoped for. Of more immediate concern should be why they’re maintaining such a differentiated product line in in pursuit of the mainstream when the quest is basically alone in appealing to the mainstream customer that they actually want.
As the closing of the oculus acquisition approaches its fifth birthday, one wonders where Facebook’s 10-year-plan for virtual reality begins to show some signs of critical success. even as the corporate has built up a niche group of VR gamers and shipped millions of headsets, the corporate remains grappling with coaxing a mass audience and recouping what it’s invested.
Whether or not the quest succeeds, you can only wonder how they’ll aim to streamline their current line of merchandise as the blank checks from Facebook begin running out.
The underpowered $199 Go proved to be a pleasant piece of hardware for the price, however the year-old system remains ultimately a very forgettable introduction to the medium for new users. How much does oculus gain from growing the user base of a product that’s best use case is watching Netflix in isolation? Samsung and oculus made such a concerted push with the Gear VR, throwing free headsets at users, however ultimately developers aren’t investing in these platforms and that’s only going to grow truer.
Meanwhile the company’s bread-and-butter PC-based headset line could have a murky future in addition. The most recent Rift S which also launched this week to lesser fanfare is basically a lateral move for oculus and suggests that the corporate likely isn’t willing to push boundaries on the high-end whereas it aims to gain its footing in the mainstream. Whether or not the quest succeeds or fails, I’d not be shocked to see the corporate fade the high-end into its standalone line over time. The pc will always drive the most high-end experiences; however it’s no place to stake a platform that still has to prove itself.
Maintaining 3 distinct product lines isn’t just expensive from a hardware R&D point-of-view, it immensely complicates the company’s relationship with the developers its backing to build stuff that’s worth playing. The economics for VR game developers is already dodgy at the best, if oculus has determined that pc isn’t somewhere it wants to innovate with hardware it should simply let the merchandise class run its course and prioritize using the latest mobile chipsets in future standalone releases.
Oculus is a large organization; however it’s more redundant than a corporation setting the stage for a new platform can afford to be. Facing its prolonged degradation, Nintendo reshaped its mobile and home consoles into a single product. Oculus has to do the same, and they already have.
In 2014, Facebook bought a company that was promising to shape the future of VR by kickstarting it. Appealing to the high-end earned it millions of loving early users on pc and millions of mobile users that gained an early taste of the platform. As Facebook has absorbed oculus deeper into its org structure and promoted its own vision for making a mass audience, the corporate has created something nice with the quest, perhaps something worth killing the merchandise lines that got it there.