The Oculus Quest Is This Generation’s Wii With One Major Exception
It’s amazing what getting rid of a cord can do.
In 2006, the Nintendo Wii introduced a brand new way to play games and blew people — even non-gamers — away with the ease of jumping into the game using the innovative controllers and the pure joy of interacting with a game using natural motions rather than just pressing a joystick and pushing buttons.
In 2019, the Oculus Quest is making its bid for the Nintendo Wii’s crown.
It’s not that virtual reality gaming is new. In fact, the quest for the ultimate virtual reality headset stretches back to the early 90s when gaming companies Sega and Sony began working on headsets, but the technology at the time wasn’t quite up to the task. In 2016, the world saw a trio VR headsets become commercially viable when Oculus released the Rift, Valve and HTC released the Vive, and Sony released PlayStation VR. But each of these systems are tethered to the CPU.
They can also be quite expensive. A computer capable of handling VR for the Rift or Vive can start at $800 with just minimum specs. And this is added to the cost of the headset itself, which starts at $399 for the Rift and can rise to $699 or more for the Vive. In 2018, the Vive cut the cord with a wireless adapter for those willing to pay $299 on top of the price of the PC and the headset.
The Oculus Quest starts at $399 for the entire system, and for those with a little too much money in their pockets, they can splurge on a $499 version that ups the storage from 64 GB to 128 GB.
But what makes the Quest this generation’s Wii are the games running on the Oculus Quest. And when I say running on the Oculus Quest, I mean that literally. The Quest doesn’t plug into a PC or console. Everything is stored in the headset, making it a true wireless experience. And the games have very good quality. They may not compete with the upper end games available for the Rift, Vive or PSVR, but they are light years ahead of the Samsung Gear or Oculus Go.
And most important, the Oculus Quest is fun. Nintendo Wii level fun.
There’s nothing quite like stepping into another world without anything holding you back. Experiences like the PlayStaton VR can give you a hint without breaking the bank, but cutting that cord creates a freedom and gameplay that harkens back to the first time you held those Wii controllers and were able to simply wave your hands to make things happen in the game.
And the games build on this. Who knew that playing tennis with a fish or a pool noodle could be so fun? Sports Scramble is the Quest’s version of Wii Sports, and while it sadly doesn’t include golf, the scramble versions of tennis, bowling and baseball demonstrate the new freedom of playing without a cord, especially if you’ve drawn a sufficiently large enough play field for tennis.
The games for the Oculus Quest range from good, old-fashioned table tennis with Racket Fury to the ultimate nerd experience of wielding a lightsaber in Vader Immortal. There are also VR experiences like Apollo 11 Quest and VR hangouts like Rec Room. There’s even a couple of casinos for those who like to gamble, and with apps like Next VR, you can experience events in VR as if you were actually there.
More importantly, the games for the Quest are beginning to experiment with what is possible when there are no cords involved. This means VR games where you walk around and even arena-style games that can be played in massive play areas.
The combination of affordability, cutting the cord and the quality of experience levels up virtual reality and brings it to just about anyone who wants to experience it without forking out a fair amount of money. And nothing quite invokes the Wii like the ease for even non-gamers to step into the experience. For most VR games, there’s no need to go into a lengthy lecture on what button does what and how to play the game. You play Sports Scramble Bowling by simply picking up your bowling ball (or basketball, or football…) and bowling. You swing your lightsaber in Vader Immortal by grabbing it off your belt and swinging it.
This is what made the Wii such a magical experience. Everyone was playing it. Parents were playing it. Grandparents were playing it. It transcended gaming and became a social experience…
The One Major Exception That Limits the Oculus Quest Experience
And that is where we have the downside of the Oculus Quest. While the Quest captures the fun of the Wii, it doesn’t quite replicate the social nature of it. Sure, you can definitely sit around and have an Oculus Quest night, passing the headset from one person to the other for a somewhat shared experience. You can even set up two Quests and kick up the multiplayer fun — but you’ll need a decent sized play area if you aren’t going to split into two different rooms in the house. You can even watch your friends play on your smartphone or tablet using the Oculus app.
But it’s not quite that same openly shared experience we got with the Wii.
The idea of pass-and-play becomes tedious when you need to put on and adjust a headset as well as ensure the touch controls are strapped to the wrist. Can you imagine passing all of those controls to four people throughout a 10-frame game of bowling?
And while multiplayer exists, its is limited by the number of headsets the group owns and the amount of playing space that exists. Each player is also stepping into another world, so the social connection between players and non-players is akin to trying to tune in a radio station but being at the edge of its range.
Of course, part of the experience of VR is that you don’t need to be sitting around the same living room to get that social experience. And while the Oculus Quest may not be so easy to pass around that you want to do it during a game, it’s quite easy to switch up players between games. So it does make a great game night addition.
What’s It Like To Set Up an Oculus Quest?
I don’t want to go an entire review without mentioning what it is like to get set up and running on the Oculus Quest. The good news is the hardest part can be actually getting the Quest. It can quickly sell out in stores, but once you have one in your hands, you’ll be up and running in minutes.
After downloading the Oculus app on your smartphone, you will set up an account, including a method of billing if you want to buy apps and games from the store. The app will help you set up Wi-Fi for the headset and can be used as an extra screen for streaming what the Quest headset is displaying, albeit without the coolness of VR. You can also choose to connect the Oculus app to your Facebook account, which makes it easier to connect to your friends, but this isn’t a requirement.
The whole process is so quick and easy, it may actually take longer to decide on and download your first game. The Quest comes with a first experience app that will introduce you to VR that includes two mini-games. There are also several game demos to check out and a host of free apps that let you explore different areas of VR. The games for the Quest tend to range from $9.99 to $29.99, so they are somewhere in-between the cost of a game on a console and the cost on a tablet.
The Incredibly Upgrading Quest
What if you end up loving VR so much you really want that high-end PC experience? An awesome feature coming soon to the Oculus Quest is the ability for it to virtually become an Oculus Rift. In late 2019, you’ll be able to plug your Oculus Quest into your PC and play (or, more accurately, stream) Oculus Rift games to your Quest headset.
This makes the Oculus Quest the perfect way to step into VR. Another great feature coming to the Quest in early 2020 is the ability to skip the Oculus Touch controllers and just use your hands. The Quest will be able to detect your hand and finger movement with a fair amount of fidelity, allowing you to reach out and grab objects in a virtual world as easily as in the real world.
So What’s the Downside?
The Oculus Quest lacks the firepower to replicate the experience found on the Rift and Vive, both of which require a hefty computer to do the heavy lifting. But the fact that the Quest will soon be able to act as a Rift cancels this out, allowing you to upgrade the experience without buying a new headset.
The limited amount of storage available for the Quest will put a cap the number of apps and games you can keep on your device. But given that the entry model has 64 GB of storage space, and the fact thatOculus Games tend to take up smaller storage space compared to other VR headsets— think 1 to 2 GB for many games —the 64 GB model should be sufficient for most people. Like most digital stores, consumers can always delete an app or game to save space and download it again for free at a later date.
The biggest detractor for the Quest is battery life. Oculus states the Quest has about a 2 hour lifespan, and in testing this proves to be mostly accurate. It’s possible to play the Quest while plugged in similar to using a phone while charging, but this does negate the wireless aspect of the headset and can make some games unplayable. The Oculus Touch controls also suffer from short battery life that can require exchanging the AA batteries every one or two weeks when in daily use.
Sound can also be an issue. Put simply, the Quest is loud enough without being loud. Which is fine in most instances, but if you want to really turn it up, you’ll be at a lost. There’s no turning this one up to eleven. And while you can plug in wired headphones, the Quest doesn’t support wireless headphones. This means you would be adding a wire to an experience that is supposed to be wireless.
But despite a few detractors, the Quest is one of those rare purchases that lives up to expectations even when those expectations are high.