It's easy to get high quality software: in the app store era, great apps are regularly surrounded by massive amounts of Junky devices. Forcing consumers to rummage through garbage cans is a source of frustration, even for operators of apps stores.
Facebook's Oculus division expects to have a solution to this problem. With only a few weeks left to launch its $ 399 standalone VR headset, Oculus announced that developers will have to meet high quality standards before being allowed into the new Oculus Quest store. Nothing changes with Go or Rift stores – the highest standards of the company will only be applied to Quest.
To be admitted to the Quest store, developers will need to submit a concept paper to Oculus stating, among other things, "the quality and likely success of the market," as well as "aligning with our Oculus developer content guidelines." If approved, they will gain full development and access to publications; otherwise, they will not have to waste resources for something that will be rejected.
No sensible person would disagree with the concept of "quality first" behind this plan – and I personally called for that to happen last year. After wasting time and money on half-cooked virtual reality games, I suggested that Oculus (and its competitors) create classic Nintendo-style quality seals to elevate test standards and performance of some late VR developers. But I also said that I did not "hold my breath" for that to really happen.
So, on the one hand, I'm delighted that Oculus is raising the bar of quality for virtual reality software. But I'm not sure if Oculus Quest is the best place to start the business.
If you've followed media reports and analysts on Quest, you've probably already seen a collection of positive hands-on impressions and optimistic predictions of strong unit sales. My colleague Dean Takahashi said Quest "could be a really great platform for the games of the future" after practical testing last September. Even though the demonstrations I attended were definitely substandard in the console, I generally agree. The research firm SuperData announced last year that Quest would propel virtual reality and predicted a sale of 1.3 million queries in 2019, or as much as $ 399 in the first year of sales, while Oculus sold 199 millions of Go headsets.
However, in the past, this is not how sales volumes work in consumer electronics. The most expensive and expensive version of an existing product that already sells typically sells a lot less units than the low end model. That's why companies looking for larger installed bases tend to find ways to make their devices more affordable for more people. There are rare exceptions, like the iPhone X, but even in the case of Apple, there are many counterexamples, such as the iPhone XR and earlier models that would have been superior to the iPhone XS Luxury in 2018.
In the virtual reality market, I would say that prices and software have been the main inhibitors of hardware sales and that the growth recorded by VR over the last year is largely due to the more aggressive prices and the masses. high quality software reviews. The PlayStation VR really started to get ahead of its competitors when the price of the equipment fell to less than $ 200. The sales of Oculus Go have been good because they started at this level. In addition, PSVR received a massive infusion of great software in time for the holidays, while Go, which is more of a passive video viewer, had a full collection of applications to satisfy users.
Until the announcement of "top quality bar" by Oculus for Quest, the main question in my opinion was how the company would create a software library to attract these 1.3 million valued customers in 2019. Relatively few games have been officially announced for the Quest launch window. and these are usually experiences that you can also play elsewhere. Until now, the main pitch of Quest is the opportunity to enjoy previously published games such as Superhot VR Wireless.
For developers, it is worth pointing out that a user base of this size is trivial compared to the Nintendo Switch, which has been sold to more than 32 million users and launched just under two years ago. And for a variety of reasons, the likelihood that any Quest game will experience success at the Switch level, whether in terms of price or sales volume, is virtually nil.
Instead of hosting all possible software on its new platform and turning the spotlight on the best submissions, Oculus seems to want to create a waiting line outside a restaurant empty. At this point, I can not say if this happens because the number of interested Quest developers is too large to be projected or because it will require an explanation of why the launch is done with relatively few games. The real reasons will only become apparent in the coming weeks.
In either case, I'm not sure that developers will be able to provide evidence of "likely market success" on a platform without current customers. Oculus seems to be targeting players with Quest (which he says is currently "centered first on fantastic gaming experiences"), but does that mean he does not accept non-game apps? games for the platform?
It will also be interesting to see which titles, according to the company, are "cool" and "will resonate with the Quest audience" enough to deserve full development support and access to the publication. These types of judgments are largely viewer-driven and could deter both small and risky types of developers that an untested platform must survive, in hopes of attracting Oculus' objective of high quality innovators [that] tend to be expensive to build. "
In the interest of both Oculus and Quest users, I hope that the company's initiative will produce the desired effect and will raise the quality bar of the Quest store to a level higher than that of its predecessors. But it could deprive this new platform of the steady stream of new software it will need to survive at its $ 399 price. The price consumers pay for unproven VR equipment remains high, and Oculus will need every possible incentive to convince users to get involved in the race.