Why Meta’s dropping prices for its VR headsets
Meta’s (META) VR headsets are getting a major, but perhaps unavoidable, price cut, largely because consumers are, well, just not buying as many as expect.
The company today announced that it’s slashing prices for its still-new Meta Quest Pro from $1,499.99 to $999.99, while its Meta Quest 2 is dropping from $499.99 to $429.99. For the Meta Quest Pro, which was touted at its launch as being geared towards businesses, that’s a roughly 33% drop – and a noteworthy fall from the fanfare with which it was launched in conjunction with support from Microsoft (MSFT) and Accenture (ACN).
Waning consumer interest isn’t a Meta-specific problem – the VR market, along with the games industry at-large, saw its 2022 sales drop 2% year-over-year to $1.1 billion, according to research from NDP. But the company’s even struggled to keep even new headset owners interested in the product. (Meta VP of VR Mark Rabkin recently broke the news to employees, according to a Feb. 28 report by The Verge.)
“Sadly, the newer cohorts that are coming in, the people who bought it this last Christmas, they’re just not as into it, as the ones who bought it early,” he said, per The Verge.
Said IDC Research Director Ramon Llamas: “The market for second-hand and refurbished devices allows consumers to swoop in at a lower price and, if we count the specter of inflation, consumers are smart and they’ll find a way to get what they want for less”
He added: “This is part of a macro move, especially because I think it’s too early for me to say that they’re cleaning out Quest 2 inventory, since the Quest 3 doesn’t show up until the end of the year.”
Meta has sunk a lot into its pursuit of VR. Reality Labs, the company’s metaverse operation, has lost billions in the last year alone—it lost a staggering $13.7 billion on Reality Labs in 2022, up from the roughly $10.2 billion it lost on the division in 2021, according to its Meta’s latest earnings report.
The losses aside, what Meta’s spent on VR has given it “a very tight grip on the VR device market,” as they from holding 45% to 82% of VR market share in the course of this past year, according to Llamas. It’s still a nascent market though, and if they want to retain their lead, the play for them right now, he says, is more heads in sets.
“If I’m Mark Zuckerberg, if I want people to come into the Meta family, the easiest way to do that is going to be lowering prices,” Llamas told Yahoo Finance. “The more people on board, the better.”
How AI could upend the world even more than electricity or the internet
The rise of artificial general intelligence — now seen as inevitable in Silicon Valley — will bring change that is “orders of magnitude” greater than anything the world has yet seen, observers say. But are we ready?
AGI — defined as artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities, as opposed to more narrow artificial intelligence, such as the headline-grabbing ChatGPT — could free people from menial tasks and usher in a new era of creativity.
But such a historic paradigm shift could also threaten jobs and raise insurmountable social issues, experts warn.
Previous technological advances from electricity to the internet ignited powerful social change, says Siqi Chen, chief executive of San Francisco startup Runway.
“But what we’re looking at now is intelligence itself… This is the first time we’re able to create intelligence itself and increase its amount in the universe,” he told AFP.
Change, as a result, will be “orders of magnitude greater than every other technological change we’ve ever had in history.”
And such an exciting, frightening shift is a “double-edged sword,” Chen said, envisioning using AGI to tackle climate change, for example, but also warning that it is a tool that we want to be as “steerable as possible.”
It was the release of ChatGPT late last year that brought the long dreamt of idea of AGI one giant leap closer to reality.
OpenAI, the company behind the generative software that churns out essays, poems and computing code on command, this week released an even more powerful version of the tech that operates it — GPT-4.
It says the technology will not only be able to process text but also images, and produce more complex content such as legal complaints or video games.
As such it “exhibits human-level performance” on some benchmarks, the company said.
Goodbye to ‘drudgery’
The success of OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, has ignited an arms race of sorts in Silicon Valley as tech giants seek to push their generative AI tools to the next level — though they remain wary of chatbots going off the rails.
Already, AI-infused digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can summarize meetings, draft emails, create websites, craft ad campaigns and more — giving us a glimpse of what AGI will be capable of in the future.
“We spend too much time consumed by the drudgery,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft corporate vice president.
With artificial intelligence Spataro wants to “rediscover the soul of work,” he said during a Microsoft presentation on Thursday.
Artificial intelligence can also cut costs, some suggest.
British landscape architect Joe Perkins tweeted that he used GPT-4 for a coding project, which a “very good” developer had told him would cost 5,000 pounds ($6,000) and take two weeks.
“GPT-4 delivered the same in 3 hours, for $0.11,” he tweeted. “Genuinely mind boggling.”
But that raises the question of the threat to human jobs, with entrepreneur Chen acknowledging that the technology could one day build a startup like his — or an even better version.
“How am I going to make a living and not be homeless?” he asked, adding that he was counting on solutions to emerge.
Ubiquitous artificial intelligence also puts a question mark over creative authenticity as songs, images, art and more are cranked out by software instead of people.
Will humans shun education, relying instead on software to do the thinking for them?
And, who is to be trusted to make the AI unbiased, accurate, and adaptable to different countries and cultures?
AGI is “probably coming at us faster than we can process,” says Sharon Zhou, co-founder of a generative AI company.
The technology raises an existential question for humanity, she told AFP.
“If there is going to be something more powerful than us and more intelligent than us, what does that mean for us?” Zhou asked.
“And do we harness it? Or does it harness us?”
OpenAI says it plans to build AGI gradually with the aim of benefitting all of humanity, but it has conceded that the software has safety flaws.
Safety is a “process,” OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said in an interview with the MIT Technology Review, adding that it would be “highly desirable” for companies to “come up with some kind of process that allows for slower releases of models with these completely unprecedented capabilities.”
But for now, says Zhou, slowing down is just not part of the ethos.
“The power is concentrated around those who can build this stuff. And they make the decisions around this, and they are inclined to move fast,” she says.
The international order itself could be at stake, she suggests.
“The pressure between US and China has been immense,” Zhou says, adding that the artificial intelligence race invokes the Cold War era.
“There is definitely the risk with AGI that if one country figures that out faster, will they dominate?” she asks.
“And so I think the fear is, don’t stop because we can’t lose.”
So, What Was Bad About The ‘Diablo 4’ Beta?
While I am hoping to see the Diablo 4 beta extended at least another day due to its login issues, I have done about everything you can do in it on one character. I’ve finished the story, maxed at level 25, attempted (and failed) to kill a world boss. And I like it a lot, I really do.
But do some aspects need work? Yeah, sure. And no, I don’t just mean login queues and disconnects, deeply annoying aspects of any live game launch, but something Diablo 4 especially doesn’t need after Diablo 3’s launch. That’s a bit obvious, however, so let’s dig a little deeper.
Other Tech Issues – One thing everyone noticed immediately on PC was that for whatever reason, Diablo 4 is a memory hog. There seems to be some sort of bad memory leak issue in certain instances that can really become problematic in time, if not kill the game outright. On top of that, even without running out of memory completely, there was a fair bit of stuttering on PC I want to avoid at launch. In some instances, I also kept running into areas that simply wouldn’t load at all, and my character was left running in place until I quit out and went back in. Also the game crashed roughly 75% of the time I tried to go back to the title screen or quit entirely.
Map Problems – There is no transparent overlay for the map, which seems like something you sort of need in a Diablo game, and essentially any ARPG. Past that, even if you do use the map tools they have, the minimap is borderline useless given how zoomed-in it is, so you’ll need to pull up the full map obstructing your view frequently. There should be a middleground here, because right now, you just have to pull up the full map all the time which is more intrusive than an overlay would be normally, which was plenty easy to toggle on and off before.
The UI – The UI is…fine, but I’d argue it’s not great. It looks a bit unfinished and a bit too mobile-like for my tastes. It’s better than say, Lost Ark, I guess, but not by much, and I think Diablo 3 wins in this department, for now. I’d like to see more work done on the icons, and things like the skill tree screen, which seems to lean a little too heavily into Diablo 2 styling, a game which is 23 years old, and as such, this all looks a little dated.
Fast Travel – This may be a problem solved with mounts, but it really did seem like there were way too many sprawling zones without fast travel points anywhere near them. Past that, the entire TP system is a little weird, as you have to teleport back to a town then to your party if you’re in one. It also took me the entire beta to learn there’s a separate, hidden way in the emote wheel to teleport back to the entrance of a dungeon.
Aesthetics, At Times – While in general, I do love many of the dark, blood-soaked areas of the map and I understand wanting to head back to Diablo 2 vibes, at times things go from spooky and gross to just sort of…drab. The graphics are great and some zones are eye-popping, but others are desaturated to the point of blandness where art direction can feel all but absent. I am curious to see more locations, certainly, before rendering a final verdict here.
MMO Things – I am mixed on the MMO elements of this, as instead of Diablo moving more into MMO territory, during all these server errors I sure found myself wishing for a wholly offline single player version of this, which I suppose is an impossibility in 2023. I find it odd that despite the focus on multiplayer, things like dungeons and strongholds don’t have matchmaking like Lost Ark. And the world boss? While a cool concept, I felt like I had zero control over my instance, which had too few people and too many of them underleveled for us to even have a prayer of beating the thing. There do not seem to be a ton of social tools to organize the MMO elements like there are in other games other than very generalized things like world chat. Maybe this will change for the better in the live game, but it’s not great in the beta.
Enemy Density And Diversity – I feel like I kept running into the exact same 8-10 enemy mob clusters literally everywhere outside of brief horde segments, and I wanted things to be mixed up a bit. And while I know many specific enemies are staples of Diablo lore, I feel like 95% of things I saw were remixed from past games, and not in terribly interesting ways. Again, it’s a big game and there’s a lot more ahead, but I haven’t seen much creativity in this area at the start here.
Playing It Safe? – This is perhaps my general critique of the entire experience. I love past Diablo games, like we all do. This feels like a new Diablo game that has inserted in a lot of Lost Ark-like MMO elements without changing all that much else. Weirdly, the biggest leap forward is probably the storytelling with fantastic cutscenes and a genuinely intriguing plot with Lilith, something lacking in past games. I just feel like maybe I wanted the game to evolve in more ways rather than trying to “fix” Diablo 3 (which was great!) by going back to a bunch of Diablo 2-but-modernized reworks. But again, it’s still early, I haven’t seen all the changes or explored every new system.
What do you think?
Update (3/20): Alright, I think I can expand on things with a few more issues here. now that I’ve played even more.
Legendary Affixes – I’m a little concerned that many of the legendaries I’ve seen so far feel a bit…dull. Not Diablo 3 launch-level dull, as those were famously just mostly boosted stats with little else, but at least in early days here, I’m not seeing anything terribly exciting even after a few dozen drops. Maybe the better ones come later, but also the new inclusion of “Unique” drops makes all this a bit more confusing.
Dungeon Repetitiveness – The more dungeons I ended up doing around the map, the more they started to blur together and by the end, they were kind of just feeling like Greater Rifts, a mish-mash of objectives and bosses that repeat pretty frequently. Again, this could be a beta thing, and certain things are being held back, but it seems like everything was “transport these three cubes to three pedestals” or “kill these three minibosses” before a final boss, and often the same final boss as other dungeons. I know there is a way to turn dungeons into “Nightmare Dungeons” in the future which perhaps will make them a bit more interesting, but I’m not sure what the mechanics are there just yet.
Potions – I don’t know how I feel about the new potion system over health globes, as it just sort of feels like a more convoluted system compared to health globes. I kept running into a situation where I needed to heal just like 10% of my health because I was full on potions and would need to spend one so I could pick up another one that just dropped. If this was a health globe, I would have just hoovered it up automatically, skipping a step. Maybe once more regen perks are in place this will change.
Skill Respecing – It’s not terrible, but it also seems unnecessarily complicated compared to Diablo 3. I am not opposed to returning to a skill point system and having gear give +levels to those, but I kept running into situations where I’d say, get a new legendary bow that modifies my main attack, and yet I couldn’t just go and change that attack. Since that was the first node, I would have to go back and respec everything about my build, even though I was keeping 95% of the rest of it the same, which was a lot with 25 skill points, so I can only imagine what it will be like with 50 or more. Diablo 3 allowing you to change individual skills and runes independently of one another felt better to me.
Lilith – Just kidding Lilith is perfect in every way. All hail Lilith!
YouTuber Spends $22,000 to Buy Every Wii U and 3DS Game Ahead of Nintendo eShop Shutdown
A YouTuber has spent more than $22,000 digitally purchasing every Wii U and 3DS game ahead of their Nintendo eShop shutdowns next week.
As reported by VGC, The Completionist uploaded a video sharing the endeavour which took 328 days to complete. Including DSi Ware, the Virtual Console, and DLC, the project saw 866 Wii U and 1,547 3DS games purchased in total.
The completed project, totalling a Wii U with three external hard drives and a 3DS with four micro SD cards, will be donated to the Video Game History Foundation to preserve the digital offerings that will otherwise cease to exist when the stores shut down on March 27.
The Completionist spent $22,791 spread across 464 eShop cards, which amassed to 1.2 terabytes of Wii U games and 267 gigabytes of 3DS, translated to 2,136,689 blocks (Nintendo’s own data measurement system).
These incredible numbers were just half the battle for The Completionist, however, as the Nintendo eShops of old don’t run as smoothly as the Switch’s version. The software is clunkier, slower, has limited search functionality, and even adding funds can get complicated.
Limits to purchasing eShop gift cards exist to prevent scams and such, meaning The Competionist’s team had to visit a ton of different stores to acquire the amount needed. The eShop also has $250 cap, meaning only so much could be added at a time before they had to start buying games.
Additionally, only around ten games could be purchased at a time before the 3DS forces users to download them, and it also restricts the total spend per day. Purchasing DLC on the 3DS must also be done in-game, with some games requiring partial or total completion before any additional content can be purchased.
The Competionist explains every hiccup in the video, but needless to say the process wasn’t plain sailing.
For those who do still have their Wii U or 3DS, be sure to purchase anything left on the wishlist ahead of March 27. IGN has compiled lists of the best Wii U games, which includes Super Mario Maker and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and the best 3DS games, which includes Fire Emblem Awakening and Bravely Default.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and acting UK news editor. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.
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