Who puts dates in headlines? I do — when the date is an important one to remember; and this might just be a date to commit to memory.
The date Oculus Quest proved it is the lead contender in the rapidly grown virtual reality market space — and not just a space for tech nerds but a place for Joe Q. Everyone.
This is Important(tm).
Wireless VR has been around a long time — mostly through the use of shells you click phones into and pair up some weird controller to. There were a couple of more visible runs taken at the technology including Google Daydream and Oculus Go but neither set the world on fire.
Meanwhile, tethered virtual reality (headsets chained to powerful gaming PCs) had plenty of contenders from Oculus themselves, along with HTC, Valve, Samsung and many others. Their story is always the same; pricey headsets, unwieldy sensors or room configurations — all strapped to a $600+computer that has to be right on hand.
Believe me, this isn’t accessible to the average consumer.
The Oculus Quest is managing to be lightning in a bottle. Enough power to be self-contained with all the necessary equipment to make it usable anywhere — without complicated setups or additional hardware needed. All of this at a price point that is reasonable to the middle-class buyer at $400.
This is a device my mother could take out of the box and use … and that means something.
On 9/25/2019, Facebook took to the stage for the Oculus Connect 6 show and told a future where people could always be REALLY together — even when they are far apart. Using emotion-filled avatars, social networking and engineering and virtual reality they promise that we will soon be able to sit in your parent’s actual living room a thousand miles away and watch a movie together while all the while carrying on a fully realized conversation.
This is a long running promise that has dipped its toe into the waters of reality but hasn’t truly been realized.
It wasn’t realized on 9/25/2019 either — but the floor plans were laid, and not with CGI rendered smoke and mirrors but with a real basis in reality and tech that exists today.
Virtual reality is part of this reality.
Let’s not delude ourselves and say that the Oculus Quest is going to be the technology that gets us there — but like all tech that came before, you need an entry into the social order that brings commitment to the platform. A product that convinces consumers that it has a future; and a bright one at that.
This has to be something you can talk about over the water cooler at work without being branded a tech-freak or outlier. This has to be something people can afford to engage in if they entertain your experiences.
In the past, there has always been an example of this; the personal computer, the cell phone, the internet — every single major evolution of technology needed a Commodore 64, iPhone, AOL … something that made it “okay” for people to participate in.
With the Connect 6 show, I believe we have proven that the Oculus Quest is THAT product — the Commodore 64 for virtual reality (supposedly there was a C64 in one-in-three homes in the USA at one point).
Where do I draw this conclusion?
Let’s start with sales numbers. There aren’t any hard facts regarding numbers — but modest speculations have projected sales (based on early numbers in the first couple months after release) to be between 900,000 and 1.4m units sold by the end of 2019.
Let’s compare and contrast on that. The original Oculus Rift sold 400,000 units in all of 2018. Wow! To be fair, the runaway hit Nintendo Switch sold almost 18m units its first 12 months — but consider that the immensely popular-with-Joe-Consumer Nintendo Wii sold under 6m units its first year (the Wii U was under 4m) that ain’t half bad at all.
The Quest was out of stock everywhere for months. Facebook claimed they couldn’t make them fast enough to keep up with demand. This would be more impressive if we knew just how many went out the door.
Consumer demand for the product is there — and this appears to be growing.
Forget about hardware numbers. A true testament to a product’s consumer power is something called attach rate. 80% of Quest buyers made subsequent gaming purchases. Many Quest developers report up to 3x the number of sales of their products on Quest as compared to comparable periods of time on other platforms.
So — in summary — more people are buying the hardware and those that doare speaking with their wallet with their purchase habits.
The Quest has over 100 experiences available already, with over 100 more promised by Oculus over the next year.
Everything points to a healthy, growing ecosystem.
What about VR market saturation? There are a lot of people that have already invested in virtual reality with expensive solutions like Vive, Rift and Windows Mixed Reality. In a perfect world (like mobile phones) you need consumers to keep upgrading — even if they don’t really need to.
Can you get these existing consumers into Quest?
At first, the Magic 8 Ball said:
After all, the Quest experience is a step down — even if it IS wireless.
On 9/25/2019, Oculus announced something called Oculus Link. This software/cable combination promises to turn your Quest into a Rift; making it the best of both worlds — tethered power at home yet totally playable anywhere else.
The Nintendo Switch of VR.
This has me personally considering selling my Oculus Rift.
That’s why this date is important. The Quest has proven itself as a consumer product that can attract the devoted and the uninitiated as well.
I’ll leave you with an interesting story.
I decided to bring my Quest to work to play with my team of twelve in the guise of a “team building exercise”.
There was plenty of notice given; letting people know to bring some clothes they might not mind getting a bit sweaty in, selecting some music for Beat Saber … that sort of thing. I showed a couple of short videos at our daily stand up meetings to whet the appetite.
Before even playing with one, the response was tremendous. Two of my staff had been on the fence about purchasing a virtual reality device came to me — drilling me for details. One started hounding her husband to consider this Quest for the Big Family Christmas Gift(tm) this year.
Two others were considerably interested as well; like … BUYING … interested. (Edit: Both made the purchase.)
Four out of twelve people (granted, we all work in IT) were well on their way to buying a Quest without even experiencing it for themselves.
That full story can be heard on my podcast, Passenger Seat Radio.
Do you find yourself suddenly in the market for an Oculus Quest? Got one coming in the mail? Check out my day one survival guide for new (and potential) Oculus Quest owners.