Foreign media said that Pico, a subsidiary of ByteDance, began to increase shipments of virtual reality headsets in order to compete with Meta’s Quest 2 series of devices and seize the lead in the field of virtual reality headsets.
Here is the translation:
ByteDance has been competing with Meta’s Instagram and Facebook services for users and advertising revenue as the popularity of its short-form video app TikTok has soared. The rivalry between the two companies intensified two years ago when Bytedance acquired Pico, a start-up that makes virtual reality headsets.
Pico’s shipments of headsets followed suit, industry data showed. Although Pico does not sell consumer-grade VR headsets in the US market, it has become the second-largest VR headset maker in the world after Meta in terms of market size, but with stronger growth momentum.
In 2021, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook’s name to Meta, in part to highlight his focus on the Metaverse business.
As a more immersive internet, the Metaverse is primarily realized through virtual reality headsets. Meta has also been investing heavily in the metaverse concept. In the company’s most recent quarterly earnings report, Meta said that while sales of the Quest 2 headsets led to a 17% drop in overall Meta Reality Labs segment revenue for the quarter, there are more than 200 apps on its virtual reality platform. Sales exceeded $1 million.
About a year ago, Meta’s virtual reality headsets held 90% of the market, but that has dropped to around 75% by the third quarter of 2020, according to market research firm IDC. During the same period, Pico’s market share more than tripled to around 15%. Apart from these two companies, no other VR headset maker has more than 3% market share.
The virtual reality headset market is worth $4 billion by 2022. According to IDC, Meta’s shipments of virtual reality headsets in the third quarter of last year fell 48% year-on-year, and ByteDance’s Pico was the only manufacturer of similar products that increased its shipments.
A Meta spokesperson said: “We’re excited that consumers have more ways to experience virtual reality, which helps drive an ecosystem that encourages developers to create more great content.”
Pico is currently launching consumer-grade VR headsets in European and Asian markets. Jitesh Ubrani, a research manager at IDC, said the Pico was able to attract more consumers in these markets in part because Meta raised the price of the Quest line by $100 last year. After the price adjustment, Meta’s Quest 2 device is priced at $399, while Pico’s flagship consumer-facing product retails for around $450. He said Pico has entered some overseas markets that Meta equipment has not yet entered.
Pico’s latest consumer device, the Pico 4, was released last October to rave reviews from the industry. But the latest figures don’t reflect Pico 4 sales. “If anything, you’ll see their momentum pick up in the fourth quarter,” Ubrani added. Last October, Meta also released a new product for professionals, the Quest Pro, which retails for $1,500.
Competition in the virtual reality headset market is getting fiercer. Apple is expected to launch an augmented reality headset later this year, and Microsoft is also launching a mixed reality headset called HoloLens aimed at businesses. According to IDC, the related headset market is expected to be a $16 billion industry by 2026.
“The space is going to be crowded with competitors,” said Rolf Illenberger, chief executive of virtual reality software company VRdirect.
A rich set of apps is critical to the appeal of an augmented reality platform, and Pico is still in the early stages of expanding its offering. There are currently about 250 apps in Pico’s app store, and more than 400 for the Quest line of products. When Pico released Pico 4 last fall, it launched a social gathering and virtual world app called Light World, similar to Meta’s Horizon Worlds.
Sonam Mobbs, 40, an IT support worker in Northampton, England, got his hands on the Meta Quest 2 the day it launched and plays games on it every day. On the first day the Pico 4 came out, Moebus bought the new device.
“When you switch between the two, the biggest difference I notice is the sharpness,” he said. “The lens on the Pico 4 is better.” He also said the Pico 4 is more comfortable to use.
Moebus said he spends at least five hours a week playing virtual reality games. After three weeks with the Pico device, he sold his Quest 2 on eBay.
According to Pico’s website, the company was founded in 2015 and initially focused on enterprise-grade headsets. After being acquired by ByteDance, Pico announced in May 2022 that it will start selling consumer-grade devices in European and Asian markets.
Glenn Kachmar, 55, lives in Vancouver, Canada, and teaches virtual reality courses. He said he only heard about Pico last year and had been using Meta’s Quest 2 before. Kachmar ordered a Pico device from Spain.
Kahmar said the Pico is “a better device in many ways,” noting that the Pico device has a higher-resolution screen and is more comfortable to wear, but he has been reluctant to give up his Quest 2. Kahmar said that he can access more games through the Quest device, and the games he has already purchased cannot be carried over to the Pico device.
“I really don’t want to waste a lot of money on an app that I already bought,” Kahmar said.