The transition between Quest 2 and Quest 3

A few days ago, I was reading an interesting article by (the always great) Scott Hayden on Road To VR. He claimed that the announcement of “Alien: Rogue Incursion”, the first big-budget VR game that is compatible only with Quest 3, marks the beginning of the end for Quest 2 and Quest Pro. I’ve found the statement correct, but the article let me also think about when and how this transition will happen. While the transition between Quest 1 and Quest 2 has been rather easy, I believe the one between Quest 2 and Quest 3 will be more tricky. I explain why in the remainder of this article, where I also try to speculate about when it will happen and when content creators should start ditching Quest 2.

(A little caveat before starting: everything you’ll read here is the result of my own speculation, there are no official confirmations from Meta about the dates I suggest. So take everything with a grain of salt)

Quest 1, Quest 2, Quest 3… and Quest 3S

Let me start with a bit of history about Meta’s headsets.

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The historical moment of the launch of Quest 1 (Image by TechCrunch)

Oculus Quest 1 launched in 2019 for $399. It’s been a revolutionary headset because it was the first device that was easy to use, affordable, and featured a solid content library. So it sold fairly well, probably arriving at more than 1M units in just one year. But it featured a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, a potato chipset: after you put more than one cube in your application, you already started to have framerate issues. So it was hard for us devs to make visually compelling games.

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Oculus Quest 2 and controllers (Image by Meta)

So the Zuck and the Boz launched already the year after the Oculus Quest 2 (It’s so good to write “Oculus” again), which was much more powerful thanks to its Snapdragon XR2, more lightweight, more everything, but it cost less than its predecessor: $299. The library of Quest 2 grew rapidly, also because finally, the hardware was good enough to make decent games. Quest 2 sold very well, and it is still selling very well: this is also helped by the fact that Meta is dropping its price to get rid of stocks. It is estimated that Quest 2 has sold much more than 20M units in its lifetime. It’s an enormous number for the VR market.

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Meta Quest 3 and controllers (Image by Meta)

Quest 3 has been launched last year, in 2023. It is the first consumer mixed-reality headset, and it costs $499. Its processor (Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2) is more powerful than Quest 2, but the leap has not been as big as between Quest 1 and Quest 2. Still, when you use it, you see how on Quest 3 everything is more fluid and more vivid. And mixed reality is pretty cool. We don’t have clear sales numbers about Quest 3, but Artillery Intelligence estimated they were around 500K-1M units three months ago. So let’s say that today they may be 1M+ units.

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One of the leaked images of Quest 3S(Image from Reddit)

Meta has also been teasing the launch of a cheaper version of Quest 3, dubbed Quest 3 Lite or Quest 3S, this year. Rumors say it may be a headset featuring mixed reality, Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2, and for the rest, the same specifications as the older Quest 2. The price of this device should be $199: cheap enough to get the interest of the masses, but with the computational power of Quest 3 to allow for games with good quality.

Quest 2 and the elephant in the room

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Me wearing Quest 2. It is a very good device

Why have I written this little summary of Quest headsets? Well, to make clear one concept. The transition between Quest 1 and 2 was rather easy because Quest 1 was selling well but not incredibly well. And Quest 2 launched being cheaper and more powerful. It’s obvious Quest 2 was going to be great, and was going to easily outperform its older sibling.

But the transition between Quest 2 and Quest 3 is going to be much more complicated. Quest 3 is more powerful than Quest 2, but the difference is not so big as to require an immediate replacement: if you just want to play games, Quest 2 is more than enough still today. And Quest 2 is much cheaper (especially now that has been put at $199): during the last holidays, it outperformed the Quest 3 by a factor 3:1 on Amazon US. There are between 20 and 30 million of Quest 2 out there, while only 1M of Quest 3.

April’s hardware survey of VR headsets on Steam. Even among premium users that use PC VR, Quest 2 share is still much more than double of Quest 3’s. I believe among casual VR users the difference is much bigger

The dominant headset in the market is today the Quest 2 and in my opinion, it is almost impossible for Quest 3 to change this situation. That’s why Meta is planning to end the stock of Quest 2 and then launch the Quest 3S (or Lite, we still don’t know the name): being as powerful as the Quest 3, but cheap like Quest 2, this new device is the right replacement of the Quest 2. But still, even if Quest 3S starts selling very well, Quest 2 is a big mountain to climb.

20M+ devices on the market are a lot. And while many of us enthusiasts substitute a headset when a new one comes out, most of the people who bought a VR device for casual gaming are not going to do that. It’s a bit like the smartphone: enthusiasts change it every year, but most people keep the same phone for like 3 years. So even if Quest 3S comes out today, it will need a lot of time before getting the majority of the market, and Quest 2 will still be the dominant headset for months. This means that the transition between Quest 2 and Quest 3 will be long and complicated, much more than the one between Quest 1 and Quest 2.

A complicated transition

Another leaked image of Quest 3S (Image from Reddit)

What do I mean by “a complicated transition”? As a developer, I assure you that the first priority is delivering a good product, and the second is earning money and surviving. So what you try to do is to offer a product that satisfies the majority of the market, so as to maximize your revenues... but this does not always mean delivering the most compelling game that technology allows for. We saw this with PCVR vs Standalone VR: we devs could do wonders on PCVR thanks to RTX graphics cards, but most of the games out now feature Quest graphics, because that’s the biggest market, and so devs prioritize it.

A similar reasoning goes for Quest 2 vs Quest 3: Quest 3 will allow for better graphics, but if the majority of people will be on Quest 2, all developers will ensure their VR game runs great on Quest 2, de facto not exploiting the computational power of Quest 3. Sure, you can deliver two slightly different versions for the two headsets, but you do that only if you have the budget (exactly like there are studios offering PCVR / PSVR 2 versions of their games alongside the Quest ones). Not all companies can afford to do that.

This means that we’ll have for a while on the market a mismatch between the most used headset and the most powerful one, and this is absolutely not good for Meta, which would love for everyone to exploit the high-end features of Quest 3 and Quest 3S. Only this way it can have next-gen games in its store. That’s why it’s a priority for Meta to ensure the Quest 3S will climb the sales charts as fast as possible.

Quest 3S launch date and strategy

When will the Quest 3S be launched? We don’t know, but if I had to make an educated guess, I would say it will be announced at the beginning of June and sales will start in October.

There are a few reasons for this speculation. First of all, Meta is getting rid of the remaining Quest 2 now, one of the two SKUs is already out of stock and probably the next one will be soon. So they need to launch a new headset now. Then Boz said they announced the Quest 3 in June because it allowed Meta to do better marketing than if they launched after the summer, so I guess they are going to repeat the same strategy. And in the end, the beginning of June is a good opportunity to answer whatever Google had announced mid May at Google I/O and at the same time to put pressure on Apple for the WWDC conference in mid-June.

As for the sales, Meta is used to launch headsets at Meta Connect, so probably preorders can start in Autumn 2024 at Meta Connect. This would let Meta launch the Quest 3S in time for the holidays.

Alien: Rogue Incursion teaser trailer. It is expected to be compatible only with Meta Quest 3

There are two games that have currently been announced with a strong exclusivity on Quest 3: Survios’s Alien game and Camouflaj’s Batman game. Both of them are planned for the end of 2024… which makes me think they are strategically placed to launch during the holiday season targeting the new cheap Quest 3S. If Meta wants to convince people to switch to Quest 3S, it can do that only with great games. So it seems to me that the company is trying to set up a few exclusive cool games to launch with partner studios to promote the Quest 3S for the holiday season. This way all kids wanting to play the Batman game will ask their parents to buy them the Quest 3S for Christmas. The Quest 2 at home is already old for that game… so it should be replaced. I wonder if they are also planning to launch GTA VR to boost sales even more.

So I see Holiday 2024 as the trampoline for Quest 3. I can imagine Meta also pushing a lot on marketing, which will be beneficial for all of us.

The discontinuation of Quest 2

The trailer for Batman VR game. For Quest 3 only… of course they can not mention the unannounced Quest 3S

You may wonder when the Quest 2 will be discontinued. My educated guess is that the process will start in 2026-2027. If Quest 3S sells well as Meta expects (which is not sure at all), it could sell 10-15M units in a year, which would make it gain market shares pretty quickly. But still, the Quest 2 has more than 20M devices out there, so 1-2 years will be necessary before Quest 2 loses relevance and so the process of discontinuation can be started. And it will be also quite slow, with at first reducing the flagship content compatible with it, then reducing the updates, and only in the end stopping the compatibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended in 2028. Consider that Quest 1 is being truly discontinued only this year… and no one has ensured compatibility with it for ages.

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Damo9000 summarizes the short life of the Oculus Rift S (Image by Damo9000)

Of course, these are estimates driven by common sense, but Meta has shown to be pretty aggressive in the past, so it could even happen that they discontinue the device much sooner. Let’s remember that Meta made the Rift S obsolete 4 months after its launch (with the announcement of the Oculus Link)… so if it feels it needs to speed up the update process, it can force the discontinuation of Quest 2… but I don’t think it would be a smart move with so many devices on the market.

What about the Quest Pro?

The article on Road To VR also says that the beginning of the end has started for Quest Pro, too. You may wonder why I never mentioned it in this post. Well, for me the Quest Pro has been discontinued since when I tried it the first time and then I got back to my Quest 2…

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This is how I imagine the moment of the discontinuation of Quest Pro

When developers should transition

If you are a content creator (developer, etc…) like me, you may wonder when you should transition from targeting Quest 2 to mainly targeting Quest 3/3S. You may be tempted to do like Survios or Camouflaj, but I would suggest holding a bit more: Camouflaj is owned by Meta, and Survios is probably a partner. I would bet they have an agreement with Meta to release a game with exclusivity on the new device in exchange for some funding. If you manage to get a deal with Meta for the same conditions, then well, go for it.

But if you have not, forgetting the Quest 2 just a few months after the launch of Quest 3S looks like a suicide to me. The market won’t probably be big enough, it risks being a niche in a niche. I would wait a bit more, probably until the second half of 2025. In the meantime, I would still put the maximum care into ensuring that your content works on Quest 2.

Of course, take this suggestion with a grain of salt. Keep yourself up to date with the latest projected sales numbers every month and make an informed decision. Quest 3S could be a huge hit, and so you may transition in the first half of 2025, or it could have very disappointing sales, and so you may transition in 2026. There is not a hard deadline: by being in the space, you will realize when your priority will become the Quest 3 line and you will slowly start giving less attention to Quest 2.

Notice that all of this refers to VR applications. For Mixed Reality, your priority should already 100% be Quest 3. MR on Quest 2 is very prototypical, while on Quest 3 is fairly good. So if you do a mixed reality app, even today, I would suggest focusing on Quest 3, and just ensuring that it somewhat works on Quest 2 as a fallback.

Starship Home is a Mixed Reality game expected for fall 2024 and it already just targets Quest 3

This is my opinion on how we will transition from Quest 2 to Quest 3. But you may have a different one, so let’s have a debate here in the comments or on my social media channels: I think it’s beneficial for all content creators to understand how the market will evolve.

(PS Together with your opinion, also a subscription to my newsletter is very welcome!)

(Header image by Meta)

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