Oculus Quest 2 Is Placing The Rift S Out Of Its Distress
It’s no coincidence that Facebook is killing the Oculus Rift S VR headset on the same day it announces the Oculus Quest 2 on Facebook Connect. On paper, the Go, Quest, and Rift families should be different devices for different markets, but they have partnered for a much shorter time than expected. Just as that marked the end of Go earlier this year, Rift’s death was a long-term premeditated murder, arguably a matter of timing rather than if.
The VR market was different when Facebook split Oculus products into three families. Go was a cheap 3DoF media viewer with minimal gaming potential that was meant to appeal to people who didn’t want to spend more than $ 200 on a standalone VR headset – Walmart was a big Go customer. Quest was a standalone $ 400 6DoF alternative that was better than Go in every way and was highly playable, but not comparable to a VR-enabled PC. Finally, the Rift S was available as a $ 400 headset exclusively for PC VR purposes and performed slightly better than Quest when connected to a Windows computer but couldn’t be used on its own.
Over the past year, Facebook has worked aggressively to make Quest a viable replacement for Go and Rift. To win over Rift users, Oculus made Link Quest a Rift alternative that works almost as well for tethered PC VR. As a nod to Go users, the Quest 2 drops from $ 400 to $ 300, closer to Go’s original price of $ 200, and hits the “magic” price point that typically leads to hockey stick growth for compelling products.
Make no mistake: Quest 2 is compelling. Thanks to its Snapdragon XR2 chipset and massive display upgrades, Quest 2 will be a better standalone VR headset and PC VR headset than its already more powerful predecessor at a lower price point than any Rift. Inside-out tracking and screen resolution should go in circles around HTC’s competing Vive Cosmos before considering Quest 2’s convenience, size, and weight. Provided Facebook can get enough units to the stores – and people have no objection to the latest Oculus / Facebook account policies – there is every reason to believe this new model will be a huge hit.
It’s hard to imagine where the Rift S would have fit in the Oculus lineup after Quest 2 showed up. Rift S was less a step forward than a step to the side when it was announced, focusing more on improved comfort and convenience than on major visual or other technical improvements. In retrospect, Facebook set the stage for Rift to go away at this point. The company made it clear that while working on next-generation Rift-enabled innovations, it had no immediate plans to commercialize, and planned to test them in its own offices – possibly with corporate applications – before a general release. For consumers, the message was not to expect Rift 2 anytime soon.
Facebook has stated that standalone VR, not PC-bound VR, is the future of virtual reality technology. While killing Rift S and offering Quest 2 at an aggressive price suggests that Oculus is already banking on standalone VR, the reality is that the Quest family can cover both the standalone and tethered base – at a better price than Rift S. This means that PC VR fans do not have to leave their software libraries or do without connected experiences. However, I assume that Facebook will spend the next two years making standalone experiences as attractive as possible.
It remains to be seen whether Quest 2 will be enough to completely replace headsets from HTC Vive, Valve’s Index, and other vendors. However, this was the right choice for Rift S, which had no viable future due to its features, specs, and cost point. At some point there may be an Oculus headset with high-end innovations that millions of people would actually pay for, but right now focusing on making VR more attractive to the masses is just the right move.
This post by Jeremy Horwitz originally appeared in VentureBeat.