Jun 1, 2023 - Technology

Meta pushes VR gaming, while preparing for Apple

Photo of a man sitting on a couch, wearing a VR headset, while virtual people stand on his coffee table

A conceptual shot of the Meta Quest 3's mixed-realty capabilities. Image: Meta

Meta revealed a new VR headset today, the Meta Quest 3, coinciding with the company’s latest video game push. The news also got ahead of a rumored major Apple product announcement that could prove competitive.

Why it matters: The tech giant formerly known as Facebook is eager to get people excited about its push into virtual worlds, following deep job cuts and reports of low user counts in its metaverse spaces.

Details: The Quest 3, slated for a fall release, will be nearly half as thick and have double the graphical muscle as the Quest 2, thanks to a new Qualcomm chip set, Meta said.

  • It’ll start at $499. The Quest 2 currently starts at $399 but will drop to $299 on June 4.

Be smart: Meta isn’t promoting it just as a virtual reality device, but as a mixed-reality machine.

  • The difference: VR experiences block the user’s view of the real world, fully immersing them in a virtual one; mixed-reality, or augmented reality, displays virtual elements overlaid onto the real world.
  • Promoting the Quest 3’s mixed-reality abilities, a trailer showed a user activating the headset’s full-color video pass-through feature to make it look like a virtual castle was placed on their coffee table.
  • Apple is expected to unveil its own mixed-reality device at a June 5 showcase.

Between the lines: Today’s Quest 3 reveal hit just hours before Meta aired a gaming showcase that was stuffed with notable upcoming releases.

  • Highlights included news that Sega rhythm game Samba de Amigo, iconic adventure game The 7th Guest, cult-classic first-person shooter Bulletstorm and viral sensation PowerWash Simulator, are all being turned into VR games for the Quest (it was unclear if they’d also be made for rival VR platforms).
  • Meta first-party game studio Sanzaru showed off Asgard’s Wrath 2, a sprawling combat-and-puzzle game set across a desert kingdom. Meta is hyping this as the biggest game ever made for VR, with more than 60 hours’ worth of things to do in it.
  • A previously announced Meta-exclusive Assassin’s Creed VR game re-emerged today with a teaser promoting an unveiling next month. But a VR edition of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, announced for Meta’s VR headsets in 2021, remains missing in action.

The big picture: This year has become a new proving time for VR gaming, which has struggled to transcend niche status.

  • Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 launched in February to solid reviews. The company has since said PSVR2 launch sales exceeded those of 2016’s original PSVR headset. But a PlayStation showcase last week was light on major PSVR2 game announcements.
  • Meta’s showing today displayed some commitment to VR gaming, though its VR game studios have reportedly been hit hard by the company’s broad layoffs this year (Meta declined to specify how cuts impacted its game studios).
  • One measure of the challenge ahead: Today's Meta VR gaming showcase drew about 17,000 concurrent viewers on YouTube, far below the healthy six figures generated by traditional gaming showcases from the likes of Nintendo or Sony. Twitch concurrent viewership hovered at 8,000; on Facebook, about 500 viewers.

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