OPINION: The Meta Quest 3 has finally been announced by Mark Zuckerberg, but with Meta giving it a surprising price hike, I can’t help but feel that it’s lost sight of what made the VR headset series so popular in the first place.
Suddenly, Meta can no longer claim that its headset is significantly more affordable than the competition. The PlayStation VR 2 is only $50 more expensive, while the Pico 4 looks out an outright bargain by comparison at £379.99/€429 (not available in the USA).
I’m a big fan of the Quest series, but one of its greatest appeals is the affordable price. As a result, hiking up the cost of the Meta Quest 3 is a huge gamble.
I appreciate that the Quest 3 does look like a decent upgrade, with a new processor and improved passthrough allowing for mixed reality applications. But having used mixed reality devices already, such as the Vive XR Elite, I’m not convinced that there are enough applications/games to make it a worthwhile investment for the average consumer whose main focus is entertainment.
The timing of this reveal suggests that Meta is banking on the imminent launch of Apple’s mixed reality headset to trigger a boom in interest in mixed reality. That would also likely trigger an increase in production of mixed reality software, of which Meta could benefit from.
But as with all new technology, people will most likely be sceptical about mixed reality at first. Spending $499 on a type of device they’ve never used before is a major gamble, and one I bet a lot people will be unwilling to take.
Virtual reality faced that same problem. When VR headsets first launched, they were ludicrously expensive, so it was mostly only enthusiast PC gamers with a lot of money that showed any real interest. After all, who would want to shell out $1000 on something they may potentially not enjoy.
The mass market really only became interested in virtual reality once the Oculus Quest arrived with an affordable price and an all-in-one design that meant you didn’t need to purchase an expensive PC or console in order to run it.
The excellent accessibility was the key reason why the Quest thrived. After all, it didn’t have the best specs, design or performance. So to see Meta erase this key selling point is really bizarre.
The most likely explanation is that Meta simply can’t afford to keep selling new Quest headsets at such a low price. Zuckerberg was clearly banking on the Metaverse to generate a lot of money, allowing Meta to subsidise the cost of the headset, but it’s possible that doubts are starting to creep in.
It’s also worth noting that Meta initially wanted to force those with a Meta headset into creating/using a Facebook account. Now the company has reversed that decision due to public outcry, it can no longer bank on the VR headsets boosting revenue for Facebook.
Regardless of Meta’s reasoning, it doesn’t change the fact that the $499/£499.99 price will likely turn off the majority of people from buying the headset. You can buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X for that kind of cash. As a result, I just can’t see the Quest 3 maintaining the same level of success as its predecessors, which will be a shame since Meta has so far done such a great job of making virtual reality accessible.