Following a year of negotiations, Tencent and Meta have made a deal for Tencent to exclusively sell Meta’s VR (virtual reality) glasses in China from late 2024, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
Why it matters: As social media platforms Facebook and Instagram are banned in China, the return of Meta to the Chinese market is unexpected. It remains unclear if Tencent requires government approval to sell Meta’s devices due to the absence of VR-related government regulations in China.
Details: The agreement provides Meta with a fresh opportunity to tap into China’s expansive consumer market, a door that closed when access to Facebook was restricted in China in 2009.
- The VR glasses will offer consumers more affordable lenses compared to Meta’s existing Quest 3 headset, which is currently priced at around $500 in the US, according to The Wall Street Journal. The less expensive device is scheduled for sale in various international markets in addition to China in 2024.
- Insiders told the WSJ that Meta will receive a larger share of hardware revenue, while Tencent will obtain a higher proportion of revenue from content and services. The Chinese version of the VR headset will offer games and apps distributed by Tencent.
- Meta’s current lineup of VR headsets includes the 2023-released Quest 3, the 2022-unveiled Quest Pro, and the Quest 2, which went on sale in 2020. The upcoming VR device from Meta may be named Meta Quest 3 Lite, with an estimated price of $199 for the basic model, according to Chinese media outlet Cailian Press. This new product may feature a modified chip that will impact upon its performance due to its low cost.
- In its third-quarter financial report on Oct. 25, Meta disclosed that its Reality Labs unit, which develops metaverse-related technologies, experienced an operating loss of $3.74 billion. Revenue in the virtual reality and augmented reality division dropped 26% during the reporting period, falling to $210 million from $285 million a year earlier.
Context: Global shipments of augmented reality and virtual reality headsets went through a decline for the fourth consecutive quarter in the second quarter of 2023, dropping by 44.6% year-on-year, according to data from market research firm IDC.
- Meta emerged as the dominant player in the headset market during this period, occupying an approximately 50% market share, according to the same report from IDC. Sony and Pico (the headset division of TikTok parent ByteDance) secured second and third places, respectively.
- On Nov. 7, in response to a decline in global demand for VR headsets, Pico reportedly initiated a significant round of job cuts, marking its most substantial overhaul since being acquired by TikTok’s owner two years ago.