Virtual reality (VR) long traveled the road to relevance. But even after head-mounted displays (HMDs) became a reality, got trimmed down and usable for consumers, there were still massive barriers to entry in terms of the computing power, sensors, space and money required to enjoy it in your home.
The Oculus Quest has been one of the best VR headsets since its debut for that very reason. By eliminating the need for base sensors, connection to a powerful PC or even a smartphone, the standalone form factor eliminated many of the nuisances that make VR seem like a fuss.
At its Facebook Connect (formerly Oculus Connect) event today, Oculus introduced a new standalone headset, which you can check out in our Oculus Quest 2 review. But with that also came the announcement that Oculus will no longer make the Oculus Rift S or any PC-only VR headsets.
“We’re going to focus on standalone VR headsets moving forward,” Oculus said in today’s blog post today. “We’ll no longer pursue PC-only hardware, with sales of Rift S ending in 2021. That said, the Rift Platform isn’t going anywhere.”
Oculus noted that more Rift titles are on the way. It didn’t confirm when it will stop supporting the Rift S, as it did with the Oculus Go.
Many VR enthusiasts won’t be surprised at today’s announcement. Standalone VR makes it easier for new users who aren't PC gamers, plus helps keep the price down and just makes the whole setup and home experience easier.
“All of this is also good for the entire ecosystem because a bigger audience means stronger opportunities for developers to build sustainable businesses on the platform,” a Facebook spokesperson told Tom’s Hardware.
“Overall, when we can make VR this immersive and this affordable, we believe it can mean a significant step toward becoming a household technology that connects people like never before.”
The original Oculus Rift certainly helped make a name for VR, and the Oculus Rift S was a commendable follow-up that eliminated external base sensors. According to Steam’s Hardware & Software Survey, the Rift S represented 23% of VR headsets on Steam in August, compared to the Quest’s 11.2% (HTC's Vive was at 21.5% and the Valve Index at 15.6%). But combined with the original Rift, Rift-branded headsets made up 35.5% of the VR HMDs on Steam.
Facebook told us that both enthusiasts and developers see standalone headsets as the future of VR, due to ease of use. This would be particularly key if Facebook plans on helping to actualize Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s goal of 1 billion VR users.
The phasing out of the Rift S means Oculus will offer a direct competitor in the PC-connected headset space, which generally offer more powerful and immersive experiences than a standalone headset. But that doesn’t mean Oculus doesn’t see itself competing with something like the HTC Vive Cosmos or Valve Index.
For one, users can connect the Quest 2 to a PC if they purchase an Oculus Link cable. Oculus Link also lets you play Rift content on the Quest 2. Oculus told us it’s investing in “ongoing improvements” with Oculus Link in terms of performance, reliability and visual quality. This fall, Oculus Link is expected to exit beta and gain support for 90 Hz gameplay with supported games. Additionally, there’s new Rift content in the works.
“All of that means our PC platform isn’t going anywhere,”the Facebook spokesperson said. “In fact, we've seen significant growth in PC VR via Oculus Link, and the Rift Platform will continue to grow while offering high-end PC VR experiences, like Lone Echo II and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond well into the future
In terms of fidelity, the Quest 2 has a leg up on the Rift S and earned a higher rating in our review (4.5 stars versus 3 stars). A notable part of that story is in the specs.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Oculus Quest 2||Oculus Rift S|
|Resolution Per Eye||1832 x 1920||1280 x 1440|
|Refresh Rate||72 Hz or 90 Hz||80 Hz|
|Weight||1.11 pounds||1.24 pounds|
|Price||$299 (64GB storage) or $399 (256GB storage)||$399|
With the Rift S phased out, the Quest 2 will be the star of Facebook’s VR lineup. But when asked, Facebook wouldn’t commit to having just one VR headset on the market from then on.
So it’s a new era for VR, and in some ways it feels a sad. But it also seems the quest for innovation that can tempt more people into getting into VR continues.