Meta may return to China with the release of a new, budget VR headset

Meta hasn’t been in China since Facebook was blocked way back in 2009, but that may be about to change. The company is reportedly planning to release an all-new, lower-priced version of its virtual reality headset in the nation via an exclusive deal with video game giant Tencent, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Sales are tentatively set to begin in late 2024, but some details must still be finalized. 

The new headset would be more powerful than the Quest 2, but use lower-quality optics than the Quest 3, according to the report. The more budget-oriented headset may also be sold in other regions. Meta would reportedly take a larger share of headset sales, while Tencent pull in more of the content and service revenue, “like software subscriptions and game sales.”

The deal would open up a huge market for Meta’s VR division, which has been hemorrhaging money and could certainly use the boost. However, it’s not clear whether Tencent would require government approval to sell the devices. Gaming is a popular VR activity, but China’s strict rules have already had a significant impact on Tencent, the world’s largest video game company. 

China may not be a panacea for Meta’s weak VR division, either. TikTok owner ByteDance is China’s virtual reality leader with its Pico headset, but is struggling with sales in China just as Meta is elsewhere. And Tencent itself was reportedly on the brink of disbanding its own VR division, but supposedly built it back up once the Meta deal seemed inevitable. Headset sales across the globe fell nearly 45 percent this quarter compared to the same period last year. 

If the deal goes through, Meta would regain a foothold in China after 14 years with no direct presence there. The company has a 50 percent worldwide share of the VR market, with Sony’s PlayStation VR2 and Pico’s VR headset in second and third place. Apple is about to enter the market with its $3,500 Vision Pro headset, but isn’t likely to have a serious presence until it releases a cheaper version down the road. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at 

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