VR is here to stay.
Governments could break up Facebook and stop the sale of its VR hardware. Virtual reality would still survive far beyond the research labs and hacker communities in which it existed prior to Oculus’ founding in 2012. Widely supported efforts like OpenXR, the openness of the PC as a computing platform, and the success found by companies like STRIVR training employees with VR ensures that virtual reality should always flourish at a scale far larger than the ’90s and ’00s.
But what if Facebook doesn’t hit a roadblock? Facebook still hasn’t said how many Quest headsets it sold, but roughly 20% of the titles for sale on the standalone have already earned more than $1 million in revenue, according to VR-focused investor and advisor Tipatat Chennavasin.
“I’m tracking over 44 titles making over $1 million and I think there’s ~220 titles in the Quest store,” Chennavasin wrote in a direct message.
The world can’t yet see VR’s moment here. Since 2014, it has taken billions of dollars and the deaths of Gear VR, Oculus Go and Rift for Facebook to zero in on delivering this level of revenue for VR developers. Those false starts mean that VR is still generally thought of as a phone-holder or hard-to-set-up wired accessory for a PlayStation or gaming PC.
With each Oculus Quest sold, though, the perception of VR catches up to its reality. The sales being seen by these developers in standalone VR shows just how compelling VR can be when it is wireless, self-contained, and free to use your nearby devices as accessories. Quest 2 is certainly still an uncomfortable facebrick, but it is compelling in a way earlier efforts weren’t.
Facebook’s next goals likely target full color AR passthrough, truly usable controller-free hand tracking, and the ability to do real work in VR. I don’t think Facebook is going to take its time getting Quest 3 or Quest 4 out into the world either. There’s too much ground for Facebook to lose by not accelerating its efforts in VR and AR in every way.
I am not crediting Facebook and its Oculus efforts with pushing VR into mainstream. That credit should go to the collective efforts of people at Valve, Sony, Microsoft, Epic, Unity and, yes Facebook, all of which worked hand in hand with developers to build the tools needed to create compelling virtual worlds. But I do credit Facebook with being the first company to prove VR can stand on its own.
Below is a quote from Hrafn Thorisson, the CEO of Aldin Dynamics. The studio makes Waltz of The Wizard — an early room-scale VR game that became one of the first to support Oculus Quest’s hand tracking throughout the entire title:
“I feel the industry should be celebrating the excellent progress we’ve made in the past two years. In my view there is a long and exciting road ahead — this is still just the birth of a new and very expansive computing paradigm. This is more like when personal computing began than when mobile computing began. What the current hardware and software landscape looks like now is likely to be completely different in 10 or 20 years. As with PC, there are still decades of exciting times ahead and so many opportunities and industrial leaps to look forward to.”
“Right now, it is vital to keep focus on delivering the highest quality VR to broader audiences in a viable fashion. That increases interest in VR content overall, across all categories of experiences. It empowers the industry in ways that include more competitors in the space, bigger production budgets and content of greater scope and quality, for PC and standalone alike.”
“Oculus is doing excellently in figuring out what a VR platform for mainstream looks like. Moreover, they are close to making Quest an affordable full spectrum VR/AR headset, with good AR passthrough and improved capabilities as a generic computing platform. They’re reducing friction and delivering a platform with broad appeal, in addition to content hitting a baseline for quality experiences. That, to me, represents a very exciting point in the evolution of VR and AR to date.”
“What I am is excited to see continued progress in delivering a VR/AR platform with a user experience and content selection that makes people excited to use it, again and again.”