Meta just made the surprising announcement that it will be raising the price of its Quest 2 virtual reality headsets by US$100(~S$138.13) next month.
If you did a double take upon seeing that news, we commiserate — it’s weird for a two-year-old consumer tech product to suddenly go up in price.
We’re conditioned to expect the price of tech products to go down over time thanks to the relentless advancement of technology and more efficient manufacturing processes. But here, the same product you could buy in September 2020 will cost 33 percent more in August 2022.
The official reason Meta is upping prices is that “the costs to make and ship our products have been on the rise,” according to a company blog post. “By adjusting the price of Quest 2, we can continue to grow our investment in groundbreaking research and new product development that pushes the VR industry to new heights.”
Prices for a lot of things have gone up in recent months, like old Lego sets, your Netflix subscription, and even Teslas. Typically, though, if a product costs more than before, it comes with something new. Apple’s latest MacBook Air is US$200(~S$276.27) more than the older model, but it has a new design, bigger display, faster processor, and better webcam. You are, in fact, getting more for more of your money. The Quest 2 you buy in August is not that. It is the exact same product — same displays, same processor, same design — you could have bought when it launched. (Meta did give the base Quest 2 a storage bump in July 2021, but it didn’t raise the price at that time.)
The closest comparison to the Quest 2’s price jump is perhaps when Sonos raised the price of its Arc soundbar in September, also by US$100(~S$138.13). In my mind, though, that’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison. The Arc is a premium speaker that was already expensive when it launched (its original price was US$799(~S$1103.69)), while the Quest 2 was designed from the outset to be a more affordable entry into VR hardware, especially given that it’s a standalone headset that doesn’t require a PC. Valve’s Index, in contrast, costs US$999(~S$1379.95) and needs to be connected to a PC to work.
One possible explanation for the new Quest 2 price is rising inflation. Many things are just more expensive right now, and Meta’s blog post alludes to that. (Meta’s head of VR was open about rising costs on Twitter, too.) But the higher price could also help the company as it’s tightening its belt across the board.
Meta’s Reality Labs business, which houses its VR hardware, bleeds money right now. Last quarter, Meta reported a nearly $3 billion loss for Reality Labs (pdf) — so stemming losses from the Quest 2 could be one way Meta is trying to shore things up. And Meta doesn’t have the size of production of established large hardware manufacturers like Apple, so the economies of scale that typically apply across the shelf life of a product may not have as big an impact on its bottom line.
The Quest 2 price hike also arrives at a strange time, as it feels like we’re on the precipice of a big sea change in VR hardware. Sony has been drip-feeding information about its PSVR2 hardware all year, though the company still hasn’t announced when the headset will be released or how much it will cost. Apple is heavily rumored to be launching a high-end mixed reality headset that could be released in January. And Meta has openly discussed its own high-end headset, codenamed Project Cambria, that it’s set to release later this year — a fact the company mentioned in Tuesday’s blog post.
But with Tuesday’s announcement, it’s clear that Meta isn’t wanting the Quest 2 to be as much of a loss leader as it has been, even if the price hike is just to stem losses and not actually introduce a profit margin. The price change goes into effect on August 1st, and if you’d like to pick one up before the cost goes up, do it before August 1st.
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