ByteDance’s VR unit Pico prepares US expansion
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. Today we’ve got a scoop on ByteDance’s plans to take on Meta’s Quest VR headset in the U.S., as well as suggestions for what to read, watch and play this weekend.
ByteDance’s Pico is making moves
TikTok’s corporate parent, ByteDance, is getting ready to enter the U.S. market with another product: The company has started to assemble a team of Pico employees on the West Coast, with a major focus on content licensing as well as marketing its hardware to U.S. consumers.
ByteDance has also been approaching VR content producers, willing to shell out what one source described to me as “tons of money” for VR games and experiences. (ByteDance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)
- Pico currently has more than 40 job listings for positions in the Bay Area, Seattle and San Diego.
- Many of the positions the company is looking to fill are related to a content-focused organization called Pico Studios. These include a head of Pico Studios, a head of VR Game Strategy - Pico Studios, a head of Overseas Content Ecosystem - Pico Studios and an operations manager for this organization.
- Pico is also looking to fill a number of technical roles related to VR hardware and software development and R&D.
- At least one position also suggests that this new hiring push isn’t just about bringing U.S. talent on board: A head of Consumer Sales will be “responsible for the sales and marketing of Pico's overall product in the US consumer market,” according to the job description.
Pico was one of a number of Chinese VR startups with a promising product but little if any chance to bring it to Western audiences before ByteDance acquired it in August. It’s just very hard to compete with the Quest 2, especially if you don’t have a Meta-sized checkbook.
- Pico previously had a small team in the U.S. but was primarily focused on enterprise sales outside of China.
- The company introduced its latest headset, the Pico Neo 3 Link, in Europe last month, proclaiming in a tweet: “We have entered the European #VR consumer headset market.”
- ByteDance also recently began moving some of its U.S. employees from TikTok to Pico, including business development executive Sally Wang, who had been working on content partnerships for the social video app.
Since the acquisition, Pico has redoubled efforts to license content for its VR headsets. A source with knowledge of those conversations told me the company was willing to spend “tons of money” on VR content, including library titles that have already been licensed to Meta.
- Pico’s website lists games like Superhot VR, Red Matter, Eleven Table Tennis and Arizona Sunshine — all titles that have been successful on the Quest.
The big question: Is ByteDance willing to match Meta’s hardware prices? IDC recently estimated that Meta sold nearly 15 million Quest 2s since the introduction of the headset in late 2020, which puts it in line with major game consoles
- One of the reasons that the Quest 2 is so successful is its $299 price tag, which is largely due to the fact that Meta has no intentions of making money with VR hardware. Instead the company is betting on the metaverse as its next major growth engine, and sees hardware as a way to get there.
- Pico’s Neo 3 Link sells for 450 euros (about $480) in Europe, which is, well … more than $299.
Still, ByteDance seems to be in it for the long haul, and willing to take on Meta’s immersive computing push on multiple fronts. In addition to VR content and hardware staff, Pico is also looking to hire multiple haptics engineers and a waveguide design scientist — all roles necessary to build the kind of advanced AR and VR hardware Meta has been working on.
— Janko Roettgers
A MESSAGE FROM QUALCOMM
There are three things that companies need to know when it comes to setting climate goals. The first thing I would say is that if you're going to set a climate goal as a business, it needs to be a businesswide effort. It cannot live within just the corporate responsibility or the sustainability team as it often does.
TGIF: How to spend your weekend
The team behind People Make Games — The Washington Post: Patreon-funded YouTube channel People Make Games has made a major splash in games journalism in just a few short years, with high-profile exposés on Roblox’s exploitation of child creators and an explosive video on abusive indie game personalities. This week, The Washington Post’s Nathan Grayson published a profile of the U.K.-based trio behind the enterprise. In the piece, Grayson weaves a telling narrative about the rise of reader-supported journalism that’s packaged and delivered in compelling new formats for an audience that spends little to none of its time reading traditional news sites.
“Shining Girls” — Apple TV+: Following in the vein of popular miniseries thrillers like HBO’s “Sharp Objects” and USA’s “The Sinner,” Apple TV+’s new eight-episode adaptation of the 2013 novel from author Lauren Beukes has a lot going for it. The show has the excellent Elisabeth Moss in the lead role as a newspaper archivist still reeling from a violent assault, a detestable Jamie Bell as a villainous serial killer hunting Chicago women across decades and a truly mind-bending narrative that might make your head hurt a little. It’s best to go into “Shining Girls” without reading much about it; not knowing the plot until it slowly unfolds on the screen makes the show’s big reveals and many twists much more rewarding.
“The Boys” — Prime Video: Amazon’s adaptation of the very graphic comic series The Boys is back for a third season, with the first three episodes having dropped last week and the fourth premiering today. Just when you thought the show couldn’t get more ridiculous, disturbing and over-the-top, the Season Three premiere puts that concern to bed with an opening scene that perfectly captures the show’s mix of dark humor and ultra-violent spectacle. Squeamish viewers should probably steer clear of “The Boys,” but for those who like the series’ focus on corrupt, capitalistic superheroes who abuse their power, so far this season is delivering.
Diablo Immortal — Android / iOS / PC: The latest game from Blizzard Entertainment, and the struggling studio’s first new release in over six years, is the mobile-first Diablo Immortal, a free-to-play take on the classic action role-playing series. While many fans have complained of the game’s microtransactions, a number of die-hard Diablo fans say it’s one of the best entries in the hack-and-slash franchise, and one of the first premium mobile games that feels at home on a smartphone screen. You can play it on PC if you like, but Immortal is at the very least worth a try on your phone if you’ve ever enjoyed a Diablo game, especially because it costs nothing to download and play.
— Nick Statt
A MESSAGE FROM QUALCOMM
Once a company understands its sustainability baseline, it is important to identify areas that the company can feasibly make more sustainable, and then address those areas. Implementing technology that improves connectivity and provides greater insight into operations will prove to be the solution for many companies.
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you next Tuesday.
Correction (6/13): An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the Pico Neo 3 Link headset had a newer processor than the Meta Quest 2; both headsets do use the same processor.