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Meta’s VR push should focus on the reality of the average consumer

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Photo: Vinicius Amano

Photo of Ben Woods
by Ben Woods

The tipping point for virtual reality headsets remains elusive. Last year’s market hype around the metaverse suggested widespread adoption was within reach, only for Sony to reportedly dial down its production plans for the PlayStation VR2. Sales expectations for the device were halved after lacklustre pre-orders. The press reports came as expectations for the metaverse cooled, with the likes of Disney and Tencent scaling back their operations.

It would have felt like another false dawn if it was not for Meta. The Facebook-to-Instagram owner spending billions of dollars on the metaverse has carved out a leading position in the space, with 20 million Quest headsets sold. Key to maintaining this momentum will be demonstrating a broad use case among entertainment consumers, while delivering a more palatable price point.

Progress came earlier this month (April 12, 2023) when Meta announced that the Peacock streaming TV service in the US would be coming to the platform. American owners of the Meta Quest 2 and the Meta Quest Pro can watch shows such as Yellow Stone, Bel Air, and Below Deck, as well as live coverage of Major League Baseball and NFL. Viewers can also flick between multiple screens at once and adjust the size to full theatre mode.

Meta needs to play up these viewing experiences if it is to attract the average entertainment consumer. That means making a more concerted effort to dethrone the smart TV right now. With the Meta Quest 2 costing around $400, Meta needs to convince both gamers and streaming TV viewers that it poses better value for money than a PlayStation 5 or a new smart TV. There has never been a better moment to do so. Meta Quest can cater to the needs of the modern entertainment consumer, who treats gaming and streaming TV with equal value. More than two thirds of consumers are gamers, with the average gamer holding more video subscriptions than the average consumer. If an immersive experience with an expansive screen are valuable commodities, then Meta Quest has the power to disrupt.

However, efforts to broaden the use case beyond gaming should not end there. VR companies must ground the devices in the needs of everyday consumers to justify the high price tag. Such efforts are likely to take a big step forward this year when Apple is predicted to reveal its XR headset. The device is reported to feature Apple TV+, live sports coverage, a 3D fitness instructor, and iPhone apps such as the Safari browser, calendar, and messages. This device is promising practicality, as well as entertainment, to build a case with consumers. This seems a sensible step. VR’s association with the metaverse has made it feel like tomorrow’s technology when it has the power to have an impact today.

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