Most of us can clearly remember a time when something as simple as a remote control needed to be connected to a tv to work and big ticket items such as video recorders were considered state of the art. But with the dawn of the personal home computers, the world of gaming opened up. Up to that point the best we could hope for was an Atari 7800 – and even that wasn’t exactly easy to use.
Gaming tech is undergoing a revolution. It’s bye-bye Sega Genesis and hello Virtual Reality. The growth in the VR industry over the last seven years is nothing short of astounding. In 2012 Palmer Lucky, Michael Antonov, Nate Mitchell and Brendan Iribe created a tech company called Oculus.
Envisioning the development of VR headset for gaming, they launched a kickstarter campaign hoping to raise $250,000. What they got was $2.4m.
Soon two developer models were available and on the back of that, Facebook got very interested and acquired the company for a staggering $2.3 billion. That injection of cash along with the acquisition of Surreal Vision was enough to get the first consumer products on the market by 2016.
For three years, gamers had the Oculus Rift to fulfil all of their VR needs. And while that particular system has had plenty of upgrades over the last three years, including the Oculus Rift S, it was the Oculus Quest that created the most buzz in 2019.
The wireless, personal VR headset has certainly been in demand, selling 400,000 units to date, 180,000 of which came in the third quarter of 2019. At $399 for the cheapest model, that’s an estimated $159,000,000 in revenue. There is also additional game content which has added millions to the bottom line for Facebook.
But is the Oculus Quest performing below expectations? It’s no surprise that Zuckerberg wants to see a billion headsets out in the world, of course he does. But he also acknowledges that it is taking a bit longer than initially thought. As reported in QZ, he said: “I’m still optimistic. I think that the long-term vision and the reasons why I thought this was going to be important and big are unchanged.”
So what is the problem? Part of it is novelty. There really is only so much time you can spend with the headset on before wanting to return to reality. But even for the most ardent fans, Quest doesn’t have the vast range of gaming experiences offered by more traditional consoles. Currently there are about 90 titles available for Quest. That’s a solid number but honestly, how many times can you really ride a virtual rollercoaster? When you remove those quirky but short-lived experiences the number of actual games that you can really get into are quickly reduced.
Sure, instead of simply watching a horse race, you can ride in it and if you want to indulge in some Tai Chi or even watch Netflix you can do that too. But Oculus Quest developers know that is not what serious gamers are after. That’s probably also why they have so many first-person shooter games in production. Thankfully we have the likes of Arizona Sunshine (already available on Rift) and Solaris Offworld Combat coming in 2020 to shake things up a little.
None of that is to say that the Oculus Quest isn’t an incredible piece of kit. It really is something else. From it’s sleek, intuitive design to the razor sharp graphics and immersive experience, it is as technologically advanced as home systems go. But they really do need to develop other areas of the system to keep up with consumer expectations. You can’t gift a headset or the games to friends and family. And you also can’t even gift Oculus Store credit. So if you want to play a virtual world game with your real world friends, you are bang out of luck unless they also stump up for it.