Facebook Doesn’t Have a Coherent Social VR Strategy—But They’re Working on Something Big

Ben Lang of the Road to VR website doesn’t mince words in an article titled Facebook Has Four Separate Social VR Apps, and None of Them Are on Quest:

Facebook’s fragmented approach to social VR hasn’t gotten any better with the launch of Quest. The company now has four separate social VR apps, and none of them are currently available on its newest headset.

With Oculus, Facebook has aimed to build the premiere VR ecosystem, but when it comes to allowing users of the company’s different headsets—Go, Quest, and Rift—to actually interact with one another, it has completely dropped the ball.

And, as I blogged about earlier, Oculus Quest users do not have access to any Facebook-branded social VR platforms: no Facebook Spaces, no Oculus Home, no Oculus Rooms, no Oculus Venues. Facebook has basically left social VR to third-party vendors like VRChat and Rec Room, both of which will probably see a jump in user concurrency figures with the launch of the Oculus Quest headset, which I predict will prove very popular with consumers.

Adi Roberston, a senior reporter for The Verge, posted a tweet about Ben Lang’s article, which led to a very interesting response from Infinite Retina, who apparently has heard some industry gossip and is willing to spill some tea:

Infinite Retina said:

We hear Facebook is working on a major VR initiative that will come out in next 15 months. Code named “Metaverse.” They ended Facebook Spaces to get the programmers to work on this new thing.

My first response to this tweet was “Hallelujah! They’re killing Facebook Spaces!“. (My second response was “Holy shit!“.)

As I have said before, Facebook has the potential to be a major disruptive force in social VR, if they could only get their act together. And it sounds as if that is exactly what they are planning to do. All the current players in social VR had better be paying attention, and planning accordingly. They have only a small window to make an impact with their products before Facebook launches their “Metaverse” product, and when they do, it’s gonna be pretty much the only thing that the news media will be talking about (if the oceans of fawning press coverage over every stupid little upgrade to Facebook Spaces is any indication). And Facebook has very deep pockets for things like programmer salaries and advertising budgets.

Fasten your seatbelts! Things are gonna get really interesting!

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Rec Room Is Coming Soon to the iPhone and iPad, Plans to Create an In-Game Economy for Content Creators

Road to VR and UploadVR both report that the popular social VR platform Rec Room is expanding to both the iPhone and iPad. If you wish to be an iOS beta tester, you can sign up here.

Rec Room also has plans to create an in-game economy where content creators can get paid. UploadVR reports:

Against Gravity has big plans for Rec Room with the goal that “someone in school with no coding knowledge can build a game in an afternoon and ship it on console, PC, mobile, and VR. We’re already seeing this happen, but we think the ability to instantly build and publish a game gets a lot more interesting when you open up the audience to anyone with a mobile device.”

In addition to cross-platform creation tools, the company is also looking into ways for creators to get paid for their works in Rec Room.

“We’re looking into letting creators charge in-app tokens for inventions they created, costumes, events, and for different things they can build into their games and rooms,” according to the company.

Rec Room is going into some interesting directions!

VRChat and Rec Room Will Be Coming to the Oculus Quest This Spring

VRChat has just announced via Twitter that they will be one of the social VR platforms that the upcoming Oculus Quest standalone VR headset will support:

Image Sent Out in Today’s Tweet

In my earlier blogpost discussing which social VR platforms the Quest would support, there was a bit of debate as to whether or not it would be even possible to pare down the VRChat experience so that it would run acceptably on the Oculus Quest. It would appear that the company has successfully been able to accomplish this difficult feat.

It’s not clear whether VRChat will be one of the applications available at the official launch of the Quest, or sometime later. (We still don’t know when the Quest will be launched, other than “Spring 2019”.) It’s also not exactly clear what technical compromises will have to be made to the full-blown VRChat experience currently available to people using the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

But wait, there’s more news! VRChat is not the only social VR platform to make an Oculus Quest-related announcement today!

UploadVR reports today that Against Gravity’s Rec Room social VR app will also be available for the Quest. Again, it’s not clear whether the platform will be available on the official launch date of the Oculus Quest, or sometime later. They add:

We’ve long thought of Rec Room as one of VR’s most important apps. On top of playing together, players can also customize rooms to their own look and then share them with others to provide new types of experiences. In January, we reported that the game had reached over one million players.

Against Gravity also confirmed to UploadVR that the Quest version of the game will support cross-play. this is a key feature for Rec Room, allowing those with an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows VR headset and even a PSVR to meet up online. Adding Quest to that mix should help expand the player base.

So, both the number one (VRChat) and number two (Rec Room) most popular social VR platforms will be available for the Oculus Quest. This will open up a large new potential audience for both platforms. The question remains, though: how well will both virtual worlds stand up to the flood of new users? Interesting times ahead!

UPDATED: Which Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds Will Benefit from the Upcoming Standalone VR Headset Oculus Quest?

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Oculus Quest.jpeg

As many of you already know, Oculus is releasing a new, standalone VR headset, the Oculus Quest, sometime this coming spring, 2019. Priced at just US$399, it is sure to be a popular option for people who are interested in VR, but who don’t want to purchase a more expensive VR headset solution like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

The Oculus Rift is meant to fill the space in the Oculus product line-up between their entry-level, lower-powered standalone VR headset, the Oculus Go, and the Oculus Rift, a VR headset with Touch controllers which requires a high-end Windows gaming-level PC with a good graphics card to run. (Unfortunately, there is, as yet, no satisfactory native virtual reality hardware solution for Apple Mac users, although there are native Mac desktop clients for virtual worlds such as High Fidelity and Sinespace.)

Oculus Line.jpg

If the Oculus Quest becomes very popular, those social VR platforms which can run on the Quest hardware may gain an advantage over those which require a full-blown VR headset and a higher-end computer.

I think it’s safe to assume that Facebook/Oculus properties such as Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms (or at least some version of them) will be available for the Oculus Quest on its launch date. Social VR platforms with simpler avatars and spaces, which already run on the Oculus Go (like AltspaceVR, Bigscreen, and vTime) will probably also be available for the Quest.

Surprisingly, Rec Room, TheWaveVR, and VRChat are not among the social VR programs that are currently available for the Oculus Go ( I searched for them on the Oculus Go apps store and could not find any mention of them.) It remains to be seen if the companies behind those three products will release versions which will run on the more powerful Oculus Quest.

In a discussion thread over on the official High Fidelity user forums, HiFi CEO Philip Rosedale stated back in October:

We are definitely going to get High Fidelity running on as many standalone devices as we can, and we love the Quest. VR will not find a large audience until the Quest and other devices (like the Mirage and Vive Focus) become widely available.

Talking to Oculus about the process now… stay tuned.

When asked for to provide a more recent update, Philip added:

Yes, we are working on the Quest, and hope to have High Fidelity ready to run on it for launch! Very high quality device.

I also don’t know what Sinespace’s exact plans are for the Oculus Quest, but Adan Frisby, their lead developer, said on a Facebook comment when I cross-posted this blogpost over there:

We’ll be fine with it too – anyone doing Android support will have an easier time of it.

So it looks like High Fidelity and Sinespace will indeed both be working with the Oculus Quest, if not right at launch date, then shortly thereafter. This gives them both an advantage over Linden Lab’s Sansar, which very likely will not be able to work with the Quest. There’s still a lot of data that has to get sent to and from a VR headset to properly render Sansar experiences (especially for any experience which has global illumination enabled), which would probably completely overload any standalone headset.

As I often say: interesting times ahead! Let’s hope that the Oculus Quest makes a big splash and brings even more people into VR. A rising tide lifts all boats, and many social VR platforms would benefit from greater consumer awareness and uptake of virtual reality in general. And I promise to cover all of it as it happens on this blog!

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

UPDATE Dec. 14th: Adeon Writer posted the following to the VirtualVerse Discord server (VirtualVerse is the successor to the long-running SLUniverse forums):

VRChat was just announced for the Oculus Store. While it already worked with Oculus on Steam, [the] OculusSDK version of VRChat means it will almost certainly be ported to Oculus Quest when it comes out, making it the first metaverse-style game available for wireless/unteathered/portable VR.

Thanks, Adeon!

UPDATE Feb. 11th: Since this blogpost was written, I have had someone tell me the following about VRChat:

Sadly, I don’t think VRChat’s gonna support Quest. It’s just not compatible with mobile CPUs. Hell, it brings modern up-to-date PC’s to a standstill with too many people. I very much doubt the Snapdragon 835 can handle all the custom shaders, avatars, IK, etc. The team would basically need to do a full rewrite. And that’s unlikely unless the team was way bigger.

It does sound as though VRChat would have to be pared down significantly in order to run on the Oculus Quest, if at all.

I also noticed that I have received a lot of traffic to this blogpost due to this post on the OculusQuest subReddit (which I had never heard of before today). If anybody over there has any inside information on social VR/virtual worlds that will launch with the Quest, I’d certainly love to hear about it! Thanks.