The word is out. Oculus CTO John Carmack views their upcoming Oculus Quest headset as a direct competitor to the Nintendo Switch. This claim may seem wild at first glance, but what if he’s right?
Mobile Gaming Shift
The world of Mobile Gaming is going through a transition. Sony is discontinuing the Playstation Vita, and Nintendo Switch is one of the best-selling consoles in history. It’s important to note that at this point, Nintendo is largely unchallenged in the Mobile Gaming space. There isn’t another major Gaming company that is producing dedicated mobile hardware. This is a fact that Oculus is very aware of.
“Realistically, we’re going to wind up competing with the Nintendo Switch as a device. I don’t think there are that many people that are going to say. ‘I’m not going to buy a PS4, and I’m going to buy a Quest instead.’ I think there are people that are going to say ‘I’m a gamer. I’ve got a brand of choice for the main console. And maybe I got a PC that I play games on. I am going to pick up a Quest as a mobile device.”-John Carmack
On the surface, the Oculus Quest doesn’t seem very similar to the Nintendo Switch. Physically they are very different devices. However, there may be more similarities than we think.
80% Gaming, 20% Media
Carmack made it clear during his Oculus Connect keynote that he views the Quest as a Gaming device. This is in contrast the Oculus Go which he views as primarily being a media consumption platform. The Nintendo Switch is structured in a similar way. It’s focus is largely on Gaming, while also offering a limited selection of media content.
Experience is front-and-center
Nintendo has a history of producing hardware that is underpowered when compared to its competition. Nintendo Switch has one teraFLOP of graphic power while the Xbox One X has six teraFLOPs. Graphic fidelity has never been Nintendo’s focus.
“The consensus was that power isn’t everything for a console. Too many powerful consoles can’t coexist. It’s like having only ferocious dinosaurs. They might fight and hasten their own extinction.”-Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto
Specifically the Nintendo Switch is popular for providing a console-quality experience that is portable. They are taking something that is historically tethered to a TV and putting it in your pocket (or bag).
The Oculus Quest is handling things in a similar way. In terms of power, the Oculus Quest is very similar to a Xbox 360. It’s not going to amaze Gamers with dazzling graphics. Instead, the Quest is all about bringing uncompromised VR to the masses. It features full Touch Controllers and an impressive camera array that enables full room-scale VR Gaming. From a mechanics perspective, it is very similar to the Oculus Rift. Like the Nintendo Switch, the Quest is all about taking something that was previously restricted to high-end hardware and making it portable.
Nintendo has always hung its hat on it’s exclusive content. Their Mario and Pokemon franchises are among the most popular in the world. Oculus also understand the value of exclusive content.
The Oculus Quest will ship with at least 50 launch titles, including an exclusive Star Wars experience. Their launch lineup will also include popular VR Titles such as Robo Recall, The Climb, and Moss.
With an eye to the future, Oculus has their own Development Studio that is dedicated to new VR Experiences. They’ve already released several award-winning experiences for Rift and Go, and they don’t appear to be slowing down.
Nintendo dazzled the world when they released the Wii in 2006. It’s innovative Wiimote motion controllers were unlike anything else at that time. Using what they’ve learned from the Wiimote, Nintendo is taking motion controls to the next level with JoyCon controllers on Nintendo Switch.
In similar fashion, Oculus is bringing their popular Touch Controllers to Oculus Quest. Touch first debuted on Oculus Rift, amazing the world with 6dof tracking and full hand-presence in VR. Bringing Touch technology to Oculus Quest is a significant accomplishment.
Both Nintendo and Oculus believe that Gaming is at its best when you can reach out and touch the worlds that you’re playing in.
In some ways Oculus Quest stand out
As similar as Oculus Quest is to the Switch (both in mechanics and philosophy), there are some ways that Quest stands out. It shares a similar CPU and OS with Oculus Go. Based on what we know about the Go, we can make some bold predictions about the Quest.
NOTE: The following details are predictions, and have not officially been confirmed by Oculus or Facebook.
The Oculus Quest may be able to wirelessly play games like World of Warcraft through streaming Apps like ALVR, Riftcat, and Moonlight. As a fun side note, these same Apps may enable Oculus Quest to play Games like Mario Kart 8.
Oculus Go’s operating system is based on Android. As a result, users are able to sideload many Android Apps that aren’t officially available in VR. We suspect that Oculus Quest will run the same operating system that is used by Oculus Go. So there is a good chance that the Quest will have the same unofficial capabilities.
Also published on Medium.
Josh is a long-time Gamer and Technology Guru. He is known for his writing and troubleshooting skills. Josh can solve just about any problem, and is especially good at getting to the bottom of technology challenges. He has a background in Networking and holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree. When he’s not gaming, Josh can be found blogging, testing new tech, and interacting with Flickstiq’s social media following. He lives in Ohio with his wife and children.