The Oculus Go is dead, and virtual reality is better for it

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The Oculus Go is dead, and virtual reality is better for it

Oculus stopped selling its entry-level virtual reality headset on Tuesday, the Oculus Go. Usually this kind of announcement would be met with nostalgic retrospectives and beers poured on the floor. Much lamenting, and all that. Even the worst products usually get a rose-colored sendoff. 

But virtual reality is better off without Go around, and so is Oculus. 

[Further reading: The best VR headsets ]

The Gear VR era

You’ll get no eulogy from me. Not a fond one, anyway. Oculus Go was a play for the mass market that completely misunderstood the mass market. Staring down the barrel of the $600 Oculus Rift, the goal was to get people into virtual reality as cheaply as possible. Break down the barriers. Build the ecosystem. 

That process began with the Samsung Gear VR. Using an existing Samsung phone to power a VR experience seemed novel circa 2015, when Gear VR debuted. There were no consumer-facing VR headsets at that point. The Rift and Vive were still a year out, and it was exciting to have a real product in-hand—and for cheap, if you already owned a Samsung phone. $100 for VR? Not a bad deal.

And it’s worth remembering that Gear VR didn’t seem so limited in those days. It didn’t have hand-tracking—but then, neither did the Oculus Rift at the time. Titans of Space, Dreadhalls, Esper 2, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, all the best of the early Rift games came over to Gear VR in some form because the platforms were fundamentally the same.

Then room-scale VR came along. Five years later it already seems like ancient history, but there was a time when Oculus didn’t believe in room scale. There was a time when every Oculus demo took place seated with an Xbox controller in-hand. The now-essential Oculus Touch controllers shipped nine months after the Rift, as Oculus retrofitted its tracking system to catch up with Valve and the HTC Vive.

Virtual reality changed. Not overnight, maybe, but it changed. I can’t remember the last time I played a major VR release sitting down with an Xbox controller. And yet that was still the experience offered first by Gear VR and then later by Oculus Go.

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