Pico is reportedly laying off a large number of its employees.
Tencent Technology News reports that these layoffs are “widespread and are expected to affect thousands of employees”, bringing Pico’s workforce down to just “hundreds” compared to the peak of around 2000. Tencent is a competitor to ByteDance.
UploadVR independently confirmed that meetings are planned for Pico employees in the United States in the next 24 hours. We also reached out to ByteDance for comment.
If you’re not aware, ByteDance is the Chinese tech giant behind TikTok, and in mid 2021 it acquired the Chinese VR headset startup Pico. While Pico previously focused mainly on businesses, less than a year after the acqisition it launched its existing headset to European consumers as a beta test, then a few months later launched Pico 4 with superior specifications to Quest 2 at the same price.
Pico 4 had dual 2K displays and pancake lenses a year before Quest 3, and the headset is priced between Meta’s headsets, effectively acting as a midpoint option. Pico 4 isn’t sold in North America though, amid reported regulatory scrutiny of TikTok. And while ByteDance has funded developers to port over a large percentage of the major Quest Store content, it is still missing Meta’s standalone exclusives like Beat Saber, Resident Evil 4, Population: ONE, and Onward.
Just one month after Pico 4’s launch Chinese news outlet Sina Technology released a report citing “multiple insiders” at Pico claimed sales weren’t meeting expectations. The report also claimed the ByteDance acquisition had led to “factional disputes” between original employees and new staff added by the tech giant, and included an estimate that ByteDance was losing around $140 per headset sold.
Pico’s one major exclusive, Ubisoft’s Just Dance VR, has yet to ship or even to get a release date despite being slated for “2023”, and the company hasn’t announced any other major exclusive titles.
We recently reported that Pico was shifting the majority of its content funding from controllers to controller-free hand tracking content. It’s possible that ByteDance may aim its next hardware at competing with Apple Vision Pro, not Meta Quest, but companies change plans all the time. We’ll have updates as soon as we learn more.