On Jan. 5, Oculus VR announced that consumers could immediately begin pre-ordering their virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift. Furthermore, the Facebook-owned company also announced a price for the device, $599 (US), which with the exchange rate is roughly $850.
While the Oculus Rift is the third iteration of the VR device, it’s the first that is specifically marketed toward consumers, as the Oculus DK1 and 2 were developers’ kits and included preliminary technology.
The DK2 was priced at approximately $350 (US), and the founder and CEO of Oculus, Palmer Luckey stated in October that the price of the final device would be in the “ballpark” of the DK2. Luckey has since commented on the steep price increase in a Reddit “AMA” (ask me anything) thread, stating, “I handled the messaging poorly”.
“It is expensive, but for the $599 you spend, you get a lot more than spending $599 on pretty much any other consumer electronics devices,” stated Luckey. “Phones that cost $599 cost a fraction of that to make, same with mid-range TVs that cost $599. There are a lot of mainstream devices in that price-range, so as you have said, our failing was in communication, not just price.”
When a user asked for a “ballpark” estimate on how much the “Oculus Touch Controllers” would be, Luckey responded, “No more ballparks for now. I have learned my lesson.”
Oculus also revealed details of what would be included in the Oculus Rift bundle, which is: the Oculus VR headset, two games (EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale), an Xbox One controller, an Oculus remote, and a camera sensor built to track three-dimensional movements of the unit. It’s important to note that the Rift is not a standalone gaming or entertainment device, and it requires a Windows PC – with fairly substantial hardware requirements – to function.
While the company may claim that “Rift is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced” on its website, that statement is becoming less true each and every passing day, as competitor HTC prepares for the launch of their Virtual Reality headset called “Vive”.
HTC has yet to announce the release date or retail price of the Vive, but as a result of the frenzied Internet backlash Luckey and Oculus VR have revealed with their pricing, it seems as if now would be the optimal time for Vive to announce.
Microsoft suffered a similar backlash to their Xbox One system when they announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2013 that the next-gen system would launch at $500. To make matters worse for the tech giant, Sony – just a day later – would announce the PlayStation 4 system for $100 less.
Vive has a similar opportunity to under-cut the Oculus with a reduced price and corner the market. Just as the launch bundle for the Xbox One bundled a “Kinect” device which most consumers didn’t want or need, the Rift is bundled with a lot of unnecessary extras. Even though Luckey claims that these bundled items “just don’t significantly impact the cost”, HTC has an opportunity to cut their costs, lower the sale price and attract customers who want to experience virtual reality without the “$1000” price tag.
Vive has already put itself in a good position through their partnership with game publisher The Behemoth and digital PC game retailer, Valve, so it will definitely be a major competitor as the battle for virtual reality superiority begins in the coming months.
The Oculus Rift is available for pre-order now at Oculus.com, being shipped to 20 countries currently, including Canada. The expected shipping date is March 28, 2016.