There was an item in the news this past week that declared that Meta had sold just about 20 million Quest headsets so far.
That kind of seems like a win.
I mean, you sell 20 million of any expensive electronic gizmo without a killer app to drive demand and you’ve done pretty well. Right, because there remain no killer app for VR, no title that people would throw down for the hardware just to play.
I mean, Beat Sabre is cool, but not that cool.
It also at least implies that there is a market out there, an installed base ready to jump on board should somebody finally find the sweet spot for VR titles.
Granted, there are some holes you can poke in that vision. How many people are still using those early generation units, if they are still viable? How many of the subsequent generation units have been purchased by die hard VR lovers who replaced early units? And how many were purchased, used for a few hours, then stuffed in the back of a closet only to be forgotten.
Still, a lot of companies would love to have sold 20 million of any of their products. So the Oculus team deserves some credit.
Of course, if the division that made the 20 million things ended up losing $1,200 for every one they sold, that might take a bit of the edge off of any envy you might feel for Meta.
In just 2021 and 2022 the Reality Labs division within Meta operated at a $24 billion loss. And, sure they did a lot more than just the VR headsets, but VR is the cornerstone of the whole metaverse VR reality that Zuck has been championing. You can blame Horizon Worlds and whatever hare brained schemes that never saw the light of day over in Menlo Park for the losses as well, but it was all predicated on the idea of VR being the enabling tech.
Now, however, Zuck is out telling people how he is putting together a team to work on AI, that being the latest and greatest of buzzwords, which has seen Microsoft and Google pouring cash into, so Meta is going to follow suit.
But the unstated side effect seems to be that his ardor for the metaverse has cooled.
There hasn’t been any big announcement to that effect. But John Carmack, maybe the only person on the Reality Labs team with the vision and sense to know where VR ought to go, has been in the wind, gone from Meta for about a year now.
The layoffs that have hit the tech giants, each shedding at least 10K staff in a show of something, have reportedly hit the Reality Labs staff particularly hard. So now the group is a shell of its former self being run by the VP who worked on the Juicero (and no, I am never going to let that go) to carry on with whatever the plan is now that AI is the shiny new paste gem in the dime store tiara that is most of Meta.
Will Horizon Worlds users ever get legs at this rate? That was all promised before the great cuts and the chase after AI.
Not that the Reality Labs group is dead. They still have a roadmap with hardware objectives including new VR headset models and some AR gear. But it seems possible that Zuck’s obsession with the metaverse might be well and truly over. Still, something came of all that cash. It isn’t like he did something really dumb, like buying Twitter for $44 billion.