Slowly but surely, the Meta Quest 2 is evolving beyond its roots as a gaming headset.
Workout app subscriptions have turned the standalone headset into a viable wearable fitness device, while the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the benefits of virtual productivity. Meta, meanwhile, is increasingly trying to push the device’s social features as it doubles down on its vision of the Metaverse, hosting Foo Fighters concerts and viral campaigns for Wendy’s.
But we haven’t arrived at the multifunctional future of virtual reality only Again. It’s still early days for these new categories, and the vast majority of applications developed for Quest 2 are still games, with many of the most talented software developers working in the gaming industry today. de Meta, meanwhile, focuses on heavy-hitter titles like Resident Evil 4 and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. As it stands in 2022, Quest 2 is first and foremost a games console.
It’s on this front that the device – alongside the rest of the VR industry – has floundered slightly on this front.
Clearly, Quest 2 had a strong holiday season with big new launches like Resident Evil and the Oculus app topping the charts. But since then things have been a little too quiet. We’re now four months into 2022 and there have been some big headlines, like the launch of Zenith, Upload’s first “Essential” game of the year in Ultrawings 2, and this week’s release of the surprisingly solid Green Hell VR. But we haven’t seen any truly significant AAA titles to turn heads from Meta or any other publisher, and most games released on the platform tend to appear as if they came out of nowhere, with little or no marketing push. Cracks are also starting to show in Meta’s strict store management and release schedule (seriously, why is Little Cities and Cities: VR releasing a week apart?).
While the mainstream gaming scene basks in the embarrassment of big titles, from Elden Ring to Horizon Forbidden West, there has been very little to say in the VR space.
In the short term at least, this is a problem for Meta. We may be starting to see Quest’s momentum start to wane; Valve’s index saw greater growth in last month’s Steam hardware survey than Quest, and the prospect of Sony’s PSVR 2 headset, with the promise of bigger and more graphically rich VR experiences, has diverted part of the headlamps from the helmet. Even within Quest’s existing fan base, attention is turning to what the high-end Cambria project will offer when it releases later this year (though, admittedly, it will still be able to play Quest games). 2021 was also rare for big releases, but Quest 2 was still the hot new thing without any major new headsets to challenge it. Meta could afford to be patient.
I don’t mean that the helmet is in immediate danger. Quest will remain the dominant VR platform for years to come and I don’t think PSVR 2, with its reliance on the PS5, will sell more units than the collective Quest line in the next five years. As these other VR use cases become increasingly important and future headsets continue to close the fidelity gap, the headset will only grow in appeal.
But, certainly, Sony’s headset promises to serve as a balm for dedicated experience-weary VR gamers struggling with the power of mobile computing. And that audience matters.
Even just seconds of footage from Horizon Call of the Mountain demonstrated gorgeous gameplay far beyond what’s currently possible with standalone VR. Meanwhile, between its five owned VR studios (including Beat developers Saber, Onward, Population: One, Asgard’s Wrath and Lone Echo) and partnerships with companies like Ubisoft and Rockstar, we still don’t know when the next massive game Quest will land and how it will look like.
That’s why Meta’s upcoming Quest Gaming Showcase is particularly crucial to its 2022 plans.
This might just be Meta’s last chance to show what’s coming to Quest and why there’s reason to be excited before PSVR 2 hits the gas pedal in the near future. It’s going to have to show us counterpoints to the visually richer and probably bigger games that PSVR 2 will be capable of, and it’s going to have to give us a roadmap for what the year is going to look like.
Hype is how selling game consoles works. Supply constraints aside, people are rushing to buy PS5s because they know God of War: Ragnarok is coming this year and a Spider-Man sequel will follow in 2023. People want Xbox units Series X because Bethesda has cemented the launch of its upcoming open-world epic for this holiday season. It might keep getting delayed, but the promise of a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild has kept people invested in the Switch for the past few months and years.
Quest does not have these branded titles at this time. The are games we know will make a splash, like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas VR and new games Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed. We know the new Walking Dead game is coming to Quest, as are many other titles from some of the top VR developers. But most, if not all, still exist only as press releases and key logo artwork; it’s hard to generate much excitement for games we haven’t seen yet. What will we be playing in the next few months? What are Quest’s big holiday releases? Why, essentially, should a VR gamer buy a Quest 2 in 2022 rather than wait for PSVR 2?
This is Meta’s opportunity to pull back the curtain on that lineup and cement Quest’s place as a device with a steady stream of amazing content. If it misses the mark, the company risks losing ground to other headsets in 2022, as the conversation comes right back to what the new hardware will allow instead.
The Meta Gaming Showcase airs at 10am PT on April 20 and we’ll get all the titles from the show.