Last holiday season the Quest 2 VR headset had gotten off to a rocky start, with reviewers praising the virtual reality headset’s tech, but panning its mandatory Facebook integration. This year, with the Facebook restrictions relaxed, Xbox and PlayStation consoles being hard to find, and the imagined rise of some sort of techno-magical metaverse, interest in the Quest 2 was at an all-time high. The headset even surpassed traditional consoles in Google search volume for the first time ever. Is it finally VR’s time?
I was pretty sure virtual reality’s time should have started with the release of the original Quest in 2019, back when it was the Oculus Quest, and not the Meta Quest or whatever the company formerly known as Facebook is calling it now. It did away with all of the annoyances of early virtual reality headsets–high cost, expensive PC hardware requirements, extensive play space, and reliance on external tracking. All a user had to do was charge the headset, put batteries in the controllers, and they were good to go. It was as simple-to-use as virtual reality was likely to get, while still being able to provide performance and games far beyond the cheap Android-powered headsets they sell at Walmart.
The Quest was the best thing to happen to VR since the modern era of virtual reality began. The Quest 2, with its enhanced power and shiny white exterior, should have immediately been a huge hit. But Facebook’s insistence that users connect to their social media account to access games and other content derailed the standalone headset’s hype train when it launched in October of 2020.
Cut to this past holiday season, and the hype train seems to be back on track. Case in point: as noted by the virtual reality experts at Road To VR, during the height of the holiday season the Quest 2 surpassed the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch in terms of relative Google search volume. The VR headset’s Google peak was brief and mainly focused around the Christmas weekend, suggesting new users looking for tips on getting set up, or gift card recipients looking for something to buy. The point is, it’s the first time ever the VR headset exceeded the search volume of traditional game consoles since it launched.
The developers of some of virtual reality’s best games also noticed a spike in Quest game sales over the holiday season. Chandana Ekanayake, maker of the excellent Falcon Age, noted the spike in sales of the two-year-old bird adventure on Twitter.
Falcon Age spike on Quest for Christmas. No sales or anything but new devices being activated pic.twitter.com/OrUZoCBHij
— Chandana එක Ekanayake (@Ekanaut) December 28, 2021
As Ekanayake notes, there were no special sales for the game to coincide with Christmas. The spike is just from new Quest owners hunting down the best games to play on their devices.
Due to the relatively slow adoptation of virtual reality compared to regular gaming consoles, high-quality games have a very long tail in the marketplace. Another example is Superhot VR, the VR version of the amazing time-bending action game. Originally released in late 2016 as an Oculus Rift exclusive, the game’s revenue has continued to grow year-over-year. According to data from game sales tracking site IndieBL, tweeted by site co-founder Callum Underwood, projected revenue for the game is up 42 per cent over last year, mostly accounted for by the Quest version.
If you want to get into virtual reality, it looks like the Quest 2 is the way to go right now. And if you’re looking for a unique gaming experience that’s cheaper than the Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and OLED Switch, the $US299 ($418) Quest 2 is also your best bet. Affordability, availability, and accessibility are exactly why the Quest 2 topped Amazon’s video game charts from Black Friday through to Cyber Monday this year. And though Sony recently dropped details on the impressive-sounding PlayStation VR2, it’s unlikely a headset requiring a $US400 ($559) to $US500 ($698) console is going to surpass the much less expensive standalone hardware.
The Quest 2 has momentum, and with everyone talking about the virtual reality metaverse these days, that momentum is only going to grow. Want to get in on the ground floor of the metaverse? All it takes is $US300 ($419) and you’ll be fumbling about VRChat wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into in no time.
Meta isn’t sharing specific sales numbers at this time, but when reached for comment a representative did tell Kotaku that the Quest 2 “was a very popular gift this holiday,” further pointing out that the Oculus app, required to set up new hardware, was the number one app on Google Play and the iTunes App store on Christmas Day.
On December 27 of last year, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who departed the company in 2017, made a prediction on Twitter. “Quest 2 is going to outsell the Nintendo 64.” The Nintendo 64 sold nearly 33 million units worldwide during its lifetime. Earlier this year it was estimated the Quest 2 had shipped ten million units since its October 2020 launch. While it seems more likely that a Quest 3 will come out before the 2 reaches 33 million, who knows what could happen in the coming year.