The closer the holidays get, the more panicked texts I get from friends asking how they can get a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S for their loved ones. There’s no doubt that both consoles are this year’s “hot gift.” Like the Tickle Me Elmos of yesteryear, their almost mythical status is the stuff local news stations dream of. You can bet that 6 PM anchors across the country will spend weeks reporting on the parents who are scrambling to find a last-minute gift to make their children’s holidays special. Even with restocks planned through the end of the year, Santa Claus won’t be able to save the day for most families.
PlayStation and Xbox aren’t the only options for our gaming loved ones this year, however. Lost in a sea of sustained next-generation hype is the Quest 2, Oculus’ latest stand-alone VR kit. The helmet dropped back in October just as console talk was really starting to heat up and it was quickly overshadowed as a result. Those desperately looking for the perfect present for the gamers in their life shouldn’t sleep on it, because it’s one of the best gifts you could give this season.
VR has long been inaccessible for even the most committed gamers. Running a headset requires a powerhouse PC and enough space to use it. Oculus began changing the narrative in 2018 with standalone VR devices like the Oculus Go that didn’t require a PC tether to work. This year, the Quest 2 takes that ideal one step further. The device features 1832×1920 per eye resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate, making it a notable improvement over its predecessors. Most importantly, it’s only $300, which removes the price barrier for entry that has long made VR an elusive technology.
As a gift, the Oculus Quest 2 has a unique advantage over the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. The most exciting part of getting any new gaming system is the “toy factor.” Turning a new piece of tech on for the first time and learning what it can do is just as fun as playing a new game. For PlayStation 5 owners, that moment comes from the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The Series X|S, on the other hand, has no exciting innovations to speak of. It’s simply a box that plays games very well.
The Quest 2 offers the ultimate “toy” moment this holiday season. Putting on a VR headset for the first time is a special experience for any gaming fan. It doesn’t even matter what game you play on it first; most of the fun comes from the device itself, rather than the software. The fact that it’s a standalone headset makes it the kind of tech you can pass around from one family member to another on Christmas morning and laugh at their reactions. That kind of social experience built around a gaming platform makes the Quest 2 into this holiday season’s Nintendo Wii.
Of course, it’s hard to fight against the marketing power of Sony and Microsoft. The hype around new consoles is at a fever-pitch and it’s not easy to convince players that neither system is really worth it yet if you own a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One already. There’s naturally going to be a twinge of disappointment from players who don’t get to open a shiny new console this season, making something like a Quest 2 feel like a consolation prize. That said, seeing really is believing when it comes to VR. The Quest 2 is a genuinely exciting innovation for gamers and the perfect entry-level way to experience VR. It’s sure to keep any gaming loved one distracted long enough for the PlayStation 5 to come back in stock.