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The Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro for Game Developers


This was an exciting week for AR and VR enthusiasts! The world of XR has been slowly losing traction, but the flame is brightly lit once again as new contenders arrive on the scene.
A few days ago, Meta announced the Meta Quest 3, the successor to their popular Meta Quest 2 VR headset that sparked a new interest in VR for me.

I waited in anticipation to see what kind of XR headset Apple would showcase. A few days after Meta’s announcement, Apple announced the Apple Vision Pro during their Worldwide Developers Conference. This mixed-reality headset marks the start of a new product line for Apple! A very exciting week indeed.

Apple Vision Pro

New toys are always fun, but how do they compare? Can they even be compared? I’ll put on my game development goggles and find out.

In this article, I’ll:

  • Explain the differences between AR, VR and MR.
  • Take a look at the new XR headsets.
  • Discuss what all this means for game developers.
  • Share my thoughts on the new headsets.

AR, VR and MR

Before taking a closer look at these new headsets, it’s valuable to know what the common terms mean when people talk about these types of headsets. Here’s a quick summary:

Augmented Reality (AR)

This technology overlays digital information and/or virtual objects on an image or video of the real world.

Pokémon Go

Some examples include:

  • Games like Pokémon Go, where 3D objects are placed over a camera feed.
  • Face filters like those used in Snapchat and Instagram that add funny ears, eyes and distortions.
  • Virtual experiences for clothes and furniture to preview what you’d look like wearing a certain dress or how that sofa would look in your living room.
  • Companies use it for interactive ads where you can scan a code, for example, and an animated character appears on your phone’s screen.

The terms AR and MR are often mixed up, but AR is more about enhancing and/or changing what you see with little to no direct interaction with the virtual objects.

Virtual Reality (VR)

With VR, you’re fully immersed in a virtual environment that replaces the world around you by wearing a headset. You can interact with the virtual world with the use of controllers. Both your head and controllers are tracked in a 3D space, meaning the movement and rotation of your head and hands are reflected in the virtual world. This works by either lighthouse tracking or inside-out tracking, where the former uses external cameras, and the latter has cameras built into the headset itself.

VR

Here are some examples of VR headsets in order of price:

  • Meta Quest 2: The best price for performance standalone headset, although you do need a Meta account. It costs $299.00.
  • HP Reverb G2: An affordable tethered headset that costs $449.00.
  • HTC Vive Pro 2: Premium tethered headset that costs $714.00.
  • Valve Index: The tethered headset that has the best display, according to most reviews online. It costs $999.00.

You may have heard of these popular VR game titles:

  • Beat Saber: Colorful VR rhythm game where you use laser swords to slice blocks moving toward you that represent music beats.
  • Half-Life: Alyx: First-person shooter set in the Half-Life universe.
  • Superhot VR: Unique mix of the strategy and first-person shooter genres.

Mixed Reality (MR)

MR combines AR and VR by mixing objects in the real world with virtual ones and letting you interact with both. Like VR, this technology also requires you to wear a headset or glasses, but you’re still aware of the physical world around you.

Vive Flow

Some examples of MR headsets and glasses include:

  • Vive Flow: A pair of MR glasses costing $499.00.
  • Lynx R1: A headset aimed at privacy-aware professionals that costs $849.00.
  • Vive XR Elite: You can wear this headset like a pair of (heavy) glasses. It costs $1,099.00.
  • Varjo XR-3: This is an extremely high-end MR headset for enterprise use costing around $6,500.

As you can tell, the price range on these is huge as the high-cost models are aimed primarily at companies. Some VR headsets also have MR capabilities with the use of a passthrough view of the world using cameras inside the headset, so that might be a better option depending on your use case and budget.

This technology is extremely diverse as it can be used to create virtual screens instead of having to use physical ones, overlay information while driving and help doctors see medical scans in 3D, just to name a few uses.

Extended Reality (XR)

XR is an umbrella term when discussing AR, VR and MR.

Upcoming Headsets

Now that you know the difference between the XR technologies, it’s time to take a closer look at where the Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro fit in.

Note: Neither of these headsets has come out yet, so I have to rely on the data Meta and Apple have made available.

Meta Quest 3

The Meta Quest 3 is a standalone VR headset capable of MR like the Quest 2 and costs around $500.00 for the starter model. It’s clearly aimed at consumers, although its price is a tad on the high side. This new iteration has a slim design, more powerful hardware than its predecessor and boasts full-color passthrough mode. It comes with two controllers that track your hand movements and allow you to manipulate the virtual environment.

Note: Passthrough mode is a function that allows users to see their physical surroundings using cameras on an XR headset. This is useful to get a drink, move something out of the way or talk to someone without removing your headset.

You can find games and apps for the Quest 3 in the Oculus Store. Since it runs on Android, it’s easy to push and test your builds to it as a developer from any PC without having to pay a dime. Since it supports OpenXR, you can use Unity, Unreal Engine or Godot to create new experiences.

Apple Vision Pro

The Apple Vision Pro is a standalone MR headset that costs around $3,500.00 for the starter model. This headset is aimed at consumers — if you believe the marketing — although its audience is probably developers and prosumers at that price point. It has a rounded glass display, a 3D camera and uses an M2 chip combined with a new custom R1 chip to drive the software. Speaking of software, it runs visionOS, a new OS designed by Apple based on macOS and iOS. It relies on hand gestures and voice commands to navigate its interface, with the option of connecting a bluetooth keyboard.

Games and apps for the Vision Pro can be found in the App Store. If you want to push builds to it as a developer, you’ll need a device made after 2017 running macOS and a paid developer account. Apple has a deal with Unity, so you can create your own experiences using one of the most popular game engines. Whether the Vision Pro supports Unreal Engine and Godot as well is unclear at this point.

Comparison From a Game Development Standpoint

These headsets are aimed at different markets with different goals in mind. Still, if you’re a game developer and not sure what device to target, I’ll give an overview from my point of view as a humble hobbyist game developer.

Price

I’m not sure if you noticed, but in the last year, everything has gotten more expensive, making the “fun budget” smaller for a lot of people. With this in mind, it’s time to take a look at how these headsets stack up price-wise.

The Meta Quest 3 is relatively affordable compared to its peers, while the price of the Apple Vision Pro is absolutely eye-watering.

For that amount of money, you can build a high-end desktop PC with an Nvidia RTX 4090, buy a Meta Quest 2 and still have money to spare for snacks. If you prefer Apple, you can get a decked out Mac Studio or a 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip. Unfortunately, you won’t have any money left over for snacks if you go the second route. :]

To me, the Meta Quest 3 is also pricey for a consumer device, considering you need a Meta account to use it. People will still have to think hard before spending $500.00, but it’s still in the ballpark for most gamers.

Ease of Development

I love experimenting — it’s what keeps the creative juices flowing, and every now and then, something fun pops out as a result. Tinkering on a game and seeing it run on a device for the first time is a magical moment. The Steam Deck, for example, is a blast to develop for, as you can create games and apps for it from just about any system. What about the Vision Pro and the Quest 3, though?

If you want to develop anything for the Vision Pro and don’t have a macOS device yet, make sure to keep another $1,100.00 stashed somewhere for a MacBook and a developer license, as Windows and Linux devices aren’t supported. This isn’t unique to the Vision Pro either, as you can’t build apps and games for macOS and iOS from a non-macOS machine. This closed ecosystem is loved by Apple fans and hated by outsiders.

In contrast, the Meta Quest 3 runs Android, a platform that allows you to target it from any desktop OS, be it Windows, macOS or Linux. The software across the whole Quest line is also the same, meaning you can target the Quest, Quest 2 and Quest 3 at the same time. This is important, as not everyone will jump on the Quest 3 — meaning you should keep the Quest 2 in mind as well, as recommended by Meta.

Market Share

When putting your game out there, you want people to play it. It makes sense that the more people who own a device, the more will be able to play. This is where the market share comes in!

If you go with the Meta Quest route, I have great news: the Meta Quest family made up more than 80% of the total XR headset market in 2022. This means your games and experiences are sure to have an audience. You can release your project on the Oculus Store or simply put it on itch.io, for example, nice and easy.

For the Apple Vision Pro, the numbers are unclear, as it doesn’t have any history yet. The closest match is the Microsoft HoloLens 2, which sold about 200,000 units in 2021, with half of those going to the US military. If businesses are willing to go the Apple route, you can take your chances and develop something for them, but the chance will be slim your fun rhythm-based VR game will find much traction there. Personally, I don’t know many people that fit the criteria needed to buy an Apple Vision Pro:

  • Interested in XR.
  • Making enough money to spend $3,500.00 on a device that’s not essential.
  • Invested deeply in the Apple ecosystem.

In other words, don’t bet on the consumer market here, as hardly anyone will have one in their household.

Conclusion

There’s a clear winner here for game developers: the Meta Quest 3. With a huge market share, an affordable price and dev tools that are accessible to anyone, the Quest is the way to go. I’ll be sure to get one when it’s here, and I’ll share with you how you can develop games for it for free as I did in the past for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift (S).

Who knows, if I suddenly strike it rich, I might invest $5,000.00+ in everything that’s needed to develop for the Apple Vision Pro. In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming and developing small games, as usual. :]

Where to Go From Here?

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you’re excited for more XR content soon. If you have any questions or comments, join the forum discussion below!



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