During his keynote today during the Oculus Connect 5 event, chief technology officer John Carmack said that he believes that the upcoming Oculus Quest headset will have to compete with Switch, Nintendo’s hit home console/portable system.
Oculus Quest is coming out this spring, and it will serve as a middle ground between the Oculus Rift and Oculus Go. Like the Go, it will be a standalone, wireless product that does not require a PC. But it will be powerful enough to run more games than the Go, which mostly supports less interactive entertainment experiences.
The Quest will cost $400. The Switch starts at $300. Switch is not a VR device, but Carmack still sees it as a competitor. Quest will essentially also be a portable gaming device. And in terms of hardware, it will be closer to Switch than the more powerful PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Switch launched in March 2017. It became a fast hit, with its functionality as both a home console and portable device helping to drive sales. It also has successful first-party exclusives like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Indie games like Celeste and Dead Cells have also found success on the platform. As of July, total Switch sales were near 20 million.
Carmack is more than just an engineer at Oculus. He has a long history in gaming. He was a cofounder at id Software, which helped establish the first-person shooter genre with games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. He joined Oculus in 2013. If Carmack identifies a competitor, it’s with a strong understanding of how the business works.
But Oculus does not have something that makes Nintendo consoles so special: Mario and Zelda, and the decades of experience in making games that surprise and delight generations of people again and again.
Quest is positioning itself as a device for gaming. It will launch with 50 games, including current VR critical hits like Moss and a new experience based on Darth Vader. It will have to depend on its technology and third-party experiences (like Vader Immortal) to drive sales.
Gamers spend a lot of money, but their pockets have limits. Quest’s cheaper price point (compared to Rift) will make it available for a larger audience, but that audience may have to choose between Quest and Switch.