ByteDance emailed UploadVR a statement about its plans for the future of its VR headsets amid shutdown questions for its Pico brand.
In response to questions, ByteDance provided the following three sentences to UploadVR over email and declined to comment on the record further:
- "PICO will continue to operate normally and provide its users with top-notch services."
- "PICO users can continue to access the games and content available on Pico."
- "PICO will continue to invest in hardware, core technologies, and enhance the user experience of current and new consumers."
These vague statements were in response to very specific questions sent over email by UploadVR:
- Is the Just Dance game cancelled?
- Why should someone buy a Pico 4 now?
- Is there a new Pico headset planned for 2024 based on the XR2 Gen 2?
- Will developers be removing their games from release on Pico's platform?
The layoffs come a little over two years after ByteDance acquired the China-based VR headset maker to join TikTok in its stable of technology companies.
The latest statement from ByteDance comes a day after our initial report confirming the restructuring of Pico VR efforts, while a company representative simultaneously declined to specify the number of staff being fired in Europe and the United States.
While Meta disappeared a Grand Theft Auto VR game with no comment, Mark Zuckerberg's team also regularly invests in exclusive built-from-the-ground-up VR content. Oculus Studios has a nearly decade-long track record of following through on significant funding projects and, just this season, Meta's VR gaming team ships Asgard's Wrath 2 bundled with all new Quest 3 headsets alongside Assassin's Creed Nexus joining the lineup. If you're looking for where a large chunk of Meta's investment in VR goes, those two titles serve as a kind of receipt.
Meanwhile, Just Dance was Pico's "first major exclusive" title but, given Bytedance's response here, it might become Pico's lone never-shipped exclusive for Pico 4. The gap between our earlier headline's promise and what Pico was able to accomplish in the year since is stunning.
For reference, Meta sold the original Quest from 2019 to 2020. In 2023, Pico 4 just barely passed that original Quest in raw usage numbers on the SteamVR hardware survey. Quest 2 is, of course, the leading headset on Steam with more than three years on sale securing 40% of the market with the same XR2 processor for standalone VR as Pico 4.
Pico 4 has never been sold in the United States.
What hope did Pico ever have against the speed and scale of Meta's investment? Facebook and Meta's work in VR stretches all the way from the chip layer in partnership with Qualcomm and out to multiple AAA-scale exclusives. From the looks of it, the race to low cost high-powered mass-market VR was already over before Meta Quest 3 and its next generation XR2 Gen 2 processor even started shipping.
Now, ByteDance is restructuring Pico while suggesting it is pursuing "core technologies" just months after Tim Cook showed Apple Vision Pro in public for the first time. The reveal by Apple confirmed the forthcoming headset relies on a breakthrough combination of eye and hand tracking – no controllers in sight – so it seems no coincidence ByteDance is preparing to ask developers to support hand tracking on its systems "wherever possible".
If Pico couldn't make a dent against Meta with competitive hardware and no follow through on exclusive content or broad availability – how exactly will Bytedance hope to take the pieces of Pico and carve out a global share against Apple too?