Nate Mitchell is one of the Oculus co-founders and continues to be a key leader at Facebook defining the product strategy for VR going forward. While he works closely with the Rift team, he’s also keenly aware of VR’s evolution over the last five years as he’s part of a small group of Oculus executives who helped create an enormous rush of interest in VR when they sold their startup to Facebook in 2014 for roughly $3 billion.
This acquisition set off a wave of investment in VR that saw numerous startups funded alongside giants like Google and Microsoft dramatically stepping up efforts to build out VR headset strategies. This year, though, public sentiment around VR entered a gap of disappointment and the market found itself in the trough of disillusionment. Oculus hasn’t helped in dispelling this sentiment because the company hasn’t released official figures about the sale of its flagship Rift.
“We did build up a lot of hype, and we really believe in all that hype — the potential for VR, VR as a computing platform. This is going to be a transformative thing,” said Mitchell. “We always said…this is a decade-plus journey that we’re on. But everyone’s expectations got ahead of themselves, maybe not Oculus, but definitely in the media.”
In Mitchell’s view, just because not everyone has a VR headset yet doesn’t mean the technology is a failure.
“Our goal is to continue growing the ecosystem of users and developers every single year,” he said.
Oculus announced a pair of standalone all-in-one VR headsets at Oculus Connect this week, the first of which (Oculus Go), is priced starting at $199 to introduce people to VR without phone or PC needed.
“We think that will be, over time, almost a step function change in the types of people and number of people who get into VR,” Mitchell said. “Now it’s not gonna necessarily be more than Gear VR because Gear VR is cheaper.”
I also found Oculus CTO John Carmack surrounded by developers pinging him with questions and asked him how big he expects sales to be for Oculus Go. He echoed Mitchell’s assessment, suggesting expectations for the headset to fall between Rift and Gear VR sales. Earlier this year, Samsung said it sold more than 5 million Gear VRs. It should be noted Gear VR sells for around $129 but it is often bundled free with the sale of Samsung phones.
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