Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus is ending sales of the Rift S headset next spring. It’s retiring the PC-based VR device to focus on the standalone Oculus Quest 2, which can also be tethered to a computer through Oculus’ Link feature.
Quest 2 product manager Prabhu Parthasarathy calls the Quest 2’s release “the right moment for us to move to a single headset.” Link, which uses a USB-C cable to support PC VR games on the Quest, was launched experimentally for the original Quest in 2019. The feature will emerge from beta later this year, officially making the $299 Quest 2 a dual-purpose headset.
The Quest 2 will connect to PCs through the same Oculus app as the Rift. And Parthasarathy says Oculus will keep supporting PC-based VR as a distinct platform from the standalone Quest system. That includes supporting the Rift for the near future. “The old Rift is something people continue to use and enjoy,” Parthasarathy acknowledges. The Rift S will also continue to support logging in with a non-Facebook Oculus account until 2023, unlike the new Quest 2, which requires a Facebook login.
Facebook promoted the Quest as its primary VR headset last year, leaving the Rift S out of upgrades like controller-free hand tracking. Oculus has maintained for years that the Rift line is a “gold standard” for playing high-end PC games. But the Rift S — a successor to the original 2016 Oculus Rift — came with compromises, including lenses with no focus adjustment. Facebook recently discontinued its Oculus Go headset, and a Rift retirement isn’t necessarily surprising.
It is, however, the end of an era. Kickstarter backers pledged nearly $2.5 million toward the original Oculus Rift prototype in 2012, launching a boom in consumer VR. Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 and turned the Rift into a high-end device that competed with Valve and HTC’s Vive headset and Sony’s PlayStation VR.
These companies’ paths have diverged since 2016. HTC has catered to specialty and business markets with its Vive Pro system, although it also produced the Cosmos headset for home gaming. Valve released its own PC VR gold standard, the $999 Index headset, last year. And Sony has coasted on strong early sales of its PSVR, offering little detail about a new headset that might work with the upcoming PlayStation 5.
Meanwhile, Oculus has released a string of headsets experimenting with different form factors and feature sets. That included the Samsung Gear VR, a plastic shell that fit around a smartphone to create a cheap mobile VR headset, as well as the Oculus Go, a fully self-contained headset that didn’t include motion controllers or allow users to walk around. The Rift launched with an Xbox gamepad, but it soon added full-fledged motion controllers called Oculus Touch, following the lead of HTC’s Vive.
The Quest, first announced as “Santa Cruz” in 2017, offered what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called “the key attributes of the ideal VR system.” It also marked a push to make VR cheap and accessible to a mass market, something that was difficult to do with a PC-based system. Last year, Oculus released its second-generation Rift, the Rift S, but it was more of an upgrade than a full generational shift, incorporating key Quest features like self-contained, inside-out camera tracking.
The Rift S’s retirement may push some PC VR enthusiasts toward the Valve Index, HTC Vive Cosmos, or upcoming HP Reverb G2 headsets. These headsets don’t require Facebook integration and have unique benefits like Valve’s “knuckles” controllers and the Reverb G2’s high-resolution display.
But Facebook is banking on the fact that those devices cost substantially more and won’t offer access to Oculus’ storefront. “We think that Quest 2 is the best of both worlds when it comes to VR experiences,” says Parthasarathy.