(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is upgrading its Oculus Quest all-in-one virtual reality headset with a faster processor for improved gaming, higher-resolution screens and a lighter design as it looks to fend off rivals in the growing VR space. The new headset’s power improvements have given the company enough confidence to discontinue its PC-connected Oculus Rift from next spring.
The social network’s hardware arm announced the Quest 2 on Wednesday at its virtual Facebook Connect conference about a year and a half after the first iteration went on sale. The initial model was praised for its all-in-one capabilities -- functioning without the need to tether to an external computer -- but was constrained by supply shortages and some basic hardware and form factor limitations.
Facebook is now investing in making sure it can produce enough units to satisfy demand and it’s expanding marketing and distribution efforts by bringing Quest products to retail stores in Japan for the first time. “Japan is one of the world’s biggest gaming markets, and we’ve heard from Japanese consumers that they’re highly interested in VR products,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.
The Quest 2 is about 10% lighter while offering better, more pixel-dense displays, the company said. It has more onboard storage on the high-end version, going from 128GB to 256GB, and a lower price. The entry-level model with 64GB of storage will cost $299, down from $399, which becomes the new price for the high-end version.
The headset uses a chip called the XR2 from Qualcomm Inc., which Facebook says unlocks better gaming performance. The new Quest has 6GB of RAM, a 50% increase on the first generation. In an interview, the company said it will take time for developers to take advantage of the upgraded specifications.
On the social network’s April earnings call, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said the original Quest “surpassed our expectations” and that the company wishes it “could make more.” In July, the company said sales in its “other revenue” category were up 40% because of hardware like the Oculus devices.
In Bloomberg News testing, the Quest 2 felt lighter and more comfortable than its predecessor. It has new straps that are easier to fasten around the user’s head. Facebook will offer an accessory that makes the headset compatible with a wider range of facial structures. The company is also preparing a strap with a battery pack that sits on the back of a wearer’s head. That will improve the weight balance of the headset, which has proven a problem for some early adopters of VR products.
Facebook said it’s investing heavily in additional production facilities to avoid the sellouts that hurt the first model, which is presently listed as out of stock on its web store. The company’s push into Japan, a key gaming market, will also include work on developing localized games.
Facebook said it considered holding the Quest 2’s release until next year due to development hurdles from the pandemic, but it managed to launch the gadget this year after seeing an uptick in VR usage due to stay-at-home orders. Bloomberg News reported on the new headset’s development in May.
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