A report regarding a Facebook earnings call from Gamasutra earlier this week painted a dim picture for an Oculus Rift 2015 release date. However, an equity analyst who spoke with Road to VR says that the call didn’t rule out a 2015 launch.
For those just tuning in to the Oculus story, here’s a recap: Oculus (the company) launched largely out of a highly successful 2012 Kickstarter which raised money for a development kit of their Rift VR headset (the DK1), which launched in 2013. This was followed by a second development kit (the DK2) in 2014. Shortly thereafter, Oculus was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. The company’s developers and supporters have been eagerly anticipating the announcement of the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, the so called ‘CV1’.
In recent months, the progress seen from serious competitors like Valve (launching the HTC Vive in Q4, 2015) and Sony (launching Morpheus in Q2 2016) have only raised the stakes. Now almost 5 months into 2015, Oculus has remained tight lipped about a release date, leaving outsiders with nothing but to scrutinize any evidence which might hint at the date. The question on the minds of many: 2015 or 2016? (I’m sure you can guess which is preferred by most).
A report from Gamasutra earlier this week regarding the Facebook Q1 2015 Earnings call purported that a 2015 Oculus Rift release was unlikely based on statements made in the call; the article opened:
It doesn’t sound like Oculus will ship the consumer version of its Oculus Rift VR headset this year, or at least not in very large quantities.
It went on to quote from the call what may seem like a damning exchange for a possible Oculus Rift 2015 release date:
Q: Mark, does the opex [operating expense] guide assume an Oculus product for consumers this calendar year? And will the initial product focus on gaming, or more around the experiences you showed at F8 around non-gaming, like that Saturday Night Live demo?
A: Ben, let me take the opex guidance question. So we have not announced any specific plans for shipment volumes in 2015 related to Oculus. I just note that Oculus is very much in the development stage, so it’s early to be talking about large shipment volumes, and our expense guidance reflects any volumes that we might do in 2015.
But according to an equity analyst who listened in to the earnings call, the language used here is specific and can’t be interpreted colloquially.
“…there is no information here that rules out Oculus shipping in 2015,” said the analyst, who asked not to be identified. The analyst delved into the context of the comments starting by reviewing the statement by Facebook that led to the question (Q, above):
Turning to expense guidance. We are tightening our expense guidance range modestly based on better visibility into our annual spending… Our expense outlook reflects the broad range of investments that we’re making in both our services and infrastructure as we continue to enhance the core experiences on Facebook and Instagram, grow our messaging products, strengthen our advertising business globally and invest in long-term growth areas like Oculus and internet.org.
“What this means is that they are providing an updated projection for what they expect expenses to be in 2015. This projection includes everything they expect to be spending on, including Oculus,” said the analyst.
Regarding the answer (A, above), the analyst told me that the language doesn’t support the conclusion that the consumer Oculus Rift won’t ship in 2015.
“This means that there are no publicly disclosed plans for Oculus shipping this year. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but [Facebook doesn’t] want to discuss it, including what the volumes might be. If you are asking if Oculus is included in the spending plans mentioned above, the answer is yes,” the analyst said. “Gamasutra and many others seem to have misinterpreted ‘We don’t want to tell you’ as ‘No CV1 in 2015’.”
The analyst, who has a personal investment in Facebook stock but does not cover the company directly (nor does their firm), had their own thoughts about the situation.
“While it’s concerning that they aren’t talking about it with only about eight months left in the year, you simply can’t draw any conclusions from the exact language they used in the call. For context, Apple is the same way—they don’t talk about new products at all, yet they ship new iPhones every year,” they said. “If no Oculus CV1 was announced at E3 [in June], I would be personally concerned since that is traditionally where you would announce something big, although again, Apple announces iPhones like a month or two before release so who knows what model Facebook and Zuck will follow, maybe they will host their own launch events.”
Oculus declined to comment about the Gamasutra article and the Facebook earnings call.
At the very end of 2014, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey reaffirmed that the DK2 would be the last development kit before the Oculus Rift CV1 would launch.
Last month, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer seemed to drop a major hint of a 2015 Oculus Rift launch during a keynote at Facebook’s F8 developer conference. Schroepfer later denied speaking specifically about Oculus and said that he was talking generally about “PC hardware available this year [that can] create these [VR] experiences.”