Is the Metaverse a Complete Failure or Secretly Thriving?

Steep price drops on Meta's Quest headsets suggest people aren't interested in the metaverse. But one metric suggests otherwise.

A side shot of the Meta Quest Pro, which hasn't taken off as anything more than a gaming unit
The Meta Quest Pro may succeed, but not in ways Meta intended

Is Meta dropping the prices on its Meta Quest Pro and Quest 2 headsets a sign that the metaverse is failing? It depends on how you look at the virtual reality kits. The price drop — a rather steep $500 for the Quest Pro — suggests that people aren’t interested in Mark Zuckerberg’s grand plan to replace our lives with digital avatars. The Pro was introduced just five months ago; in a negative review in The Verge, the publication noted that “Meta imagines the Quest Pro as a virtual office where people can meet up with co-workers and toggle between full VR and a limited form of AR.”

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That apparently hasn’t happened. But in a more recent article, The Verge notes that Meta’s headsets are successful if you stop thinking about them in the way that Meta wants you to. Instead, think of the Quest 2 as a gaming console; in that sense, it’s doing quite well. Meta estimates it has sold more than 20 million Quest headsets, on par with lifetime sales of Nintendo’s GameCube and the current sales of the Xbox Series X and S, as sales within the VR industry continue to go down.

In other words, it’s a gaming machine that you put on your face that offers a more immersive experience. And it’s doing pretty well for a company that actually hasn’t had a buzzy game in years (Beat Saber came out in 2018). Even so, the top software is still all games. “Devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and the PSVR (which sold around 5 million headsets by 2020) were adopted by consumers to play video games, not dick around in a barely built metaverse,” as The Verge says.

Recently announced price drops on the Meta Quest 2 and Pro
Recently announced price drops on the Meta Quest 2 and Pro

“Our goal has always been to create hardware that’s affordable for as many people as possible to take advantage of all that VR has to offer,” Meta says in a blog posting, adding that the company is “committed to building a successful VR market for developers, businesses and creators to thrive in.” With yet another headset on the way, maybe Meta should be committed to building a successful VR market for gamers, who embraced the Quest but are stuck with old games and little gaming excitement from the company that provides those (now less) expensive headsets.

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