Facebook’s aggressive $299 starting price for Oculus Quest 2 shouldn’t be a surprise.
For a company founded in 2004, Facebook has some catching up to do to match the scale and reach of existing tech giants. Compare that $299 offering to some of the options available from Facebook’s older competitors:
- Microsoft is selling its latest Xbox game console starting at $300 that can also be purchased with a monthly payment plan of $25. The plan includes a game subscription service.
- Google’s Pixel 4a sells for $349, or around $15 per month.
- Apple’s recent $1,000 iPhones can be purchased for around $42 per month through Apple’s own app or website. A new $15-$30 bundle pulls together many of the company’s services. The iPhone Upgrade Program starts at just over $35 per month to get a new iPhone every year.
You can see where this is going.
A $300 Oculus Quest 2 broken over 18 payments? $17 monthly. I picked 18 months because that’s how long the first Quest was sold. Over 24 months would be only around $13. A top end 256 GB Quest 2, battery extension, elite strap, and carrying case, would be around $30 monthly over 18 months and $23 monthly for two years.
What’s the monthly payment to ensure I always have the latest Oculus Quest? How much to make sure I can get timely repairs or replacements to my headset? How much to add cellular service?
And how much do I need to pay monthly to keep Facebook‘s ad business out of my VR experience entirely?
Starting in October, though, the following term outlines Facebook’s primary service:
“We don’t charge you to use Facebook or the other products and services covered by these Terms. Instead, businesses and organizations pay us to show you ads for their products and services. By using our Products, you agree that we can show you ads that we think will be relevant to you and your interests. We use your personal data to help determine which ads to show you.“
During his unscripted Facebook Connect keynote, John Carmack described getting a call and picking up an Oculus Quest to answer it like it was a phone. Facebook Messenger is coming soon and so is an Infinite Office that’ll track the position of a keyboard and trackpad working in concert with hand tracking.
I don’t think the world has really seen VR pitched for work quite like this. Quest 2 will offer a multi-window browser on a standalone VR headset which can access services like Google Docs and Slack and anything else on the Web. It should feature an adjustable passthrough view of the environment, and can be paired with a wireless keyboard and trackpad. Before 2020 is over, Quest 2 owners should be testing this (relatively) low friction VR-based work scenario.
One day, once the market is big enough and hand tracking is good enough, could the base price of a Quest drop to $200 without the Touch controllers? That’d be something like $11 over 18 months and just over $8 for two years. Split the difference and you can have a $10 per month passport to virtual reality.
As Facebook scales its Quest line, and developers look to put ads up on the walls of their virtual worlds to make more money, would Facebook make it “free” to subscribe to the newest Quest hardware? What would you give up in terms of personal information to see that price? There may be a path here in the answers to all these questions that, when realized over successive generations, Oculus VR headsets become accessories worn by hundreds of millions of people for large segments of their waking hours.
Pulling some of these levers would simply be about catching up to existing tech giants. But pulling all the levers? Facebook’s ad targeting business is built around having an accurate picture of who you are. Could any competitor ever catch up to an Oculus VR headset priced hundreds of dollars less than every other option because it is subsidized by advertisers paying to have influence over parts of what you see?
Is this some far off future? Or is Oculus Quest 2 already exactly this? And if it is, how much further might Facebook take the subsidy in the future as the ad market in VR grows?