Facebook has unveiled its second-generation Oculus Quest virtual reality headset, promising higher-quality visuals at a significantly lower price than many had predicted.
It also revealed two blockbuster franchises – Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell – were being developed for the platform. The firm has been unable to meet demand for the first Quest in recent months.
But one industry-watcher suggested it is likely to remain a “niche” product. The launch comes 16 months after the original Quest’s release.
The all-in-one machine distinguished itself by offering users six degrees of freedom – meaning they could walk around virtual worlds in a limited space as well as look up, down, left and right – without needing separate external sensors or to have its software run off a PC.
The new model features higher-resolution displays, which now offer “almost 2K” per eye. The firm says that represents 50% more pixels than before, and they have been arranged so that the gaps between each pixel are less apparent.
Facebook suggests one benefit is that text will be easier to read.
However, the trade off is that it has moved from using OLED to LED screen technology, meaning the blacks may be less deep than before, affecting contrast.
In fact, Facebook has cut the entry level price from £399 to £299 for version with 64 gigabytes of storage. A second version costs £399 and provides 256GB of storage.
That could help drive interest at a time when many gamers are focused instead on the forthcoming launches of new PlayStation and Xbox consoles. But another industry-watcher had doubts that this represented VR’s breakthrough moment.
“The upgraded image quality is important, but this is still a stepping stone, an incremental step towards mass adoption,” commented Kevin Joyce from the VR consultancy Tiny Brains.
“The Quest still needs to come further down in size and weight, and the graphics are still what you would have got from a console two generations ago.
“But Facebook is steadily paving the way for VR to go mainstream with what is a very calculated effort.”
One challenge facing the firm is that it remains difficult to convey the appeal of VR until a person tries it, which is challenging at a time Covid-19 prevents stores putting out headsets to test.
Another is suspicion of Facebook itself after a series of privacy scandals.
A number of existing owners have suggested they will ditch the platform because of its insistence they use Facebook logins with the headsets rather than a separate system.
Until now, many of the games on offer have been from smaller independent studios working with relatively low budgets.
Facebook said it would also soon release a multiplayer version of its rhythm-based game Beat Saber, which is already one of the Quest’s most popular titles, along with an expansion pack featuring the K-pop band BTS.
It also showed off the latest footage from Population: One – a Fortnite-like battle royale shooter designed for VR, which has already been years in development.