Image: Meta / MIXED
Meta Quest 3 is coming in 2023, that much is certain. You shouldn’t expect a technical revolution, though. That’s a good thing.
In October, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the “next generation of our Quest headset for consumers” will be launched in 2023. This refers to Meta Quest 3.
Since Meta usually unveils new VR hardware during Meta Connect and puts it on sale shortly after, we can expect a launch next fall. According to Mark Zuckerberg, the price range will be between 300 and 500 US dollars.
Nothing else is known about the headset from official sources. VR leaker Bradley Lynch published CAD blueprints in October that are supposed to show a prototype of the Meta Quest 3. The drawings provide information about the design and hardware features, as well as a possible focus on mixed reality.
Lynch’s sources also believe that Meta Quest 3 will be powered by a new generation XR2 chip, which alone could boost GPU performance by 2.5 times. Even though Lynch has often been right in the past, none of this has been confirmed yet.
I’m expecting a Meta Quest 2 that is improved in many ways, but doesn’t feature any major technical leaps in hardware.
I’m hoping for a slimmer and lighter chassis, new lenses for a sharper image overall, and an upgrade in terms of passthrough and mixed reality. I don’t expect eye and face recognition, nor a better head mount. The latter will still be available as a separate accessory.
Like the current headset, Meta Quest 3 will have its rough edges, its compromises. At this price, that’s not possible any other way.
Somewhat higher-quality hardware could follow at the same time or later in the form of a Meta Quest Plus, which is priced between the cheap Meta Quest 3 and the premium product Meta Quest Pro. Meta has not given any hints in this direction so far, this is just my speculation.
Standalone VR games remain standalone VR games
I’m also keeping my expectations low when it comes to the performance increase. Even though Meta Quest 3 uses the latest XR2 chip, that doesn’t mean the headset can take full advantage of its performance. Waste heat and battery consumption are still severely limiting inherent factors of the headset design.
We should not expect big graphical leaps, but I will be happy to be proven wrong. For now, a smooth and responsive UI and higher resolution for standalone VR games are enough for me. For big and graphically complex titles, I still need to plug Meta Quest 3 into my PC or fire up my Playstation VR 2.
A smooth transition from Quest 2 to Quest 3
If I’m right in my assessment, Meta Quest 3 will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. And that’s on purpose: Meta wants a smooth transition in the generation change, as I’ve argued elsewhere.
Meta Quest 2 has sold millions. Meta won’t upset existing customers by declaring the headset dead as early as next year and aggressively encouraging upgrades.
It’s more likely that Meta Quest 2 will continue to be actively supported for quite some time, certainly longer than the first Meta Quest. This, in turn, could slow down the potential of Meta Quest 3. It was a similar story with Meta Quest 2 and its predecessor. How quickly Meta makes the change will depend on how well Meta Quest 3 sells.
No experiments, please
My hope for Meta Quest 3 is that the headset will be a slightly improved successor to Meta Quest 2 in many ways. My criterion is that its design choices, compromises, and emphases are largely correct in hindsight. Nothing more, nothing less.
In this regard, I agree with John Carmack, who is convinced that Meta Quest 2 already has all the ingredients for mainstream success and only needs incremental improvement.
Meta can experiment wildly with the Pro series. The first Meta Quest Pro is, in my eyes, a clunky, immature product with strange compromises, an elusive target audience, and an unjustifiably high price tag. Meta can’t afford a similar misstep with Meta Quest 3.
Ultimately, the software will be critical to the headset’s long-term success. By that I mean the operating system, the interfaces, and the exclusive VR games.
If Meta continues to do a good job here, Meta Quest 3 will be a success even without a major hardware upgrade, defining a new industry standard. A gradual, gentle revolution, so to speak.