Maria Montero

To realize your virtual reality dreams, Facebook needs to kill the …

Mark Zuckerberg has He poured billions into his dream of virtual reality, a new platform that Facebook owns.

Facebook bought Oculus and has spent the last five years killing what it was and reinventing it as a Facebook-scale company. It has left most of the co-founders, brought in Zuck supporters to make the biggest decisions, and is geared toward accessibility rather than appeasing the company’s early supporters.

Facebook’s latest release is the realization of all of that.

The company’s Quest product, which they launched on Tuesday, offers an optimized version of high-quality virtual reality, while taking advantage of long-lasting software to make the installation and operation process much easier. It’s probably the best VR product ever made, and one that has the mainstream firmly in view.

Facebook needs to lean on the new device and get away from what got it there.

With previous VR releases, there has always been a key technology to blame or a key feature that was missing, but if Oculus The search fails, Facebook may have to consider that the entire product category does not have the mass appeal that it expected. One of the more immediate concerns should be why they maintain such a differentiated product line in pursuit of the mainstream when Search is largely unique in appealing to the core customer they really want.

As the closing of the Oculus acquisition approaches its fifth birthday, one wonders where Facebook’s 10-year VR plan is starting to show some signs of critical success. Even though the company has created a niche pool of VR gamers and shipped millions of headsets, the company is still trying to win over a massive audience and get back what it has invested.

Whether Search is successful or not, you can only wonder how they will aim to streamline their current product line as Facebook’s blank checks start to run out.

The underpowered $ 199 Go proved to be a good piece of hardware for the price, but the system from a year ago is still ultimately an introduction to the medium for new users that can’t be forgotten. How much does Oculus gain by increasing the user base of a product whose best use case is watching Netflix in isolation? Samsung and Oculus made such a concerted effort with the Gear VR, releasing free headphones to users, but ultimately developers are not investing in these platforms and that is only going to get more real.

Meanwhile, the company’s line of PC-based headsets could have a murky future, too. The latest Rift S, which also launched this week to minor fanfare, is basically a sideways move for Oculus and suggests that the company is probably not willing to push the limits at the high end, while its aim is to gain a foothold in the high-end. mainstream. Whether Search succeeds or fails, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company transform the high-end into its standalone line over time. The PC will always drive the most advanced experiences, but it’s not a place to bet on a platform that still needs to prove itself.

Not only is maintaining three distinct product lines expensive from a hardware R&D point of view, it greatly complicates the company’s relationship with developers, their support to build things worth playing. The economy for VR game developers is unreliable at best. If Oculus has determined that the PC is not a place where it wants to innovate with hardware, it should let the product class run its course and prioritize using the latest mobile chipsets in future standalone releases.

Oculus is a great organization, but it is more redundant than a company that is setting the stage for a new platform. In the face of prolonged degradation, Nintendo reformed its mobile and home consoles into one product. Oculus needs to do the same, and they already have.

In 2014, Facebook bought a company that promised to shape the future of virtual reality through startup. Appealing to the high-end, millions of passionate users on PC and millions of mobile users who tried the platform from the beginning were won. As Facebook has absorbed Oculus deeper into its organizational structure and promoted its own vision for creating a mass audience, the company has created something fantastic with Search, perhaps something worth killing the product lines that support it. led there.