Open Forum: Will The Cost Of Oculus Rift Hurt VR Gaming?

After many, many months of speculative waiting, Oculus Rift finally has a price tag. Despite being fairly robust technology, no one was able to pinpoint just how much one of the company’s VR headsets would cost. Well, now we have the answer – six hundred bucks. That’s half a grand in sterling and although many were expecting Rift to be expensive, there was still a palpable sense of shock when the pre-orders went live.

That’s fair enough, especially when you consider that £500 doesn’t guarantee an automatic pass in the wonderful world of virtual reality. Looking at the PC specs required to run Oculus, there are plenty of gamers who will also need to upgrade their current builds. If your rig isn’t quite up to scratch then no worries – Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey reckons “normal people” will see the value in buying a headset/computer bundle, with prices starting at $1,500.

Personally, I haven’t quite fallen head over heels the same way others have for VR. Although I can definitely see the positive applications when it comes to gaming, the price point and demanding specs have shot any chance there is of me jumping on the Oculus bandwagon. That’s not to say I won’t being following the new tech’s launch later this year, and while it may be far out of my reach but that doesn’t mean I want to see Oculus crash and burn under such high expectations.

Instead, this recent news has me eyeing up PlayStation VR even more. I can’t see it being much less than £500 but, then again, Sony knows its audience well. Although Oculus appears to be the technically superior option on paper, the PS4’s rapidly expanding install base and an affordable price point could turn Sony’s offering into a potential posterboy for virtual reality.

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Dave: Honestly, given the specs for the Oculus Rift, it’s very difficult to imagine a price that could be lower for the quality on offer. You need to consider the resolutions and refresh rates on TVs and monitors of similar price points to see just how competitive the price of this piece of technology stands out.

However, the important thing is that while the smartphone-based Gear VR was first on the market, it’s got a price of entry that while manageable for some, just isn’t the high-end specification that the others provide. Oculus also has the bonus of being the first VR tech announced way back when its Kickstarter campaign kicked off. VR is for the enthusiasts at the moment, with the hardware requirements for the Oculus with an optimal experience being aimed at very high-end graphics cards and processors.

Sony will of course price competitively as they’re attempting to being their PlayStation VR to the market, but the reduced cost will be down to lower specification hardware and the genuine risk of frame rate issues thanks to the comparatively underpowered PS4 (compared to the minimum viable PC requirements for the Oculus Rift). If they can have games with solid frame rates without sacrificing too much graphically, then they might have something successful. As for the HTC Vive, not many people have both the money that will probably be required for the hardware, the PC to run it, or that amount of space available to them for optimal play.

I honestly think that Oculus Rift’s pricepoint hasn’t hurt it – the cost of shipping aside – but really, the answer to this question can’t be determined for years. VR might eventually become the norm, but it’s not for the mass market right now.

For Kris, this announcement marks a bump in the road for Oculus Rift though firmly states that VR is “here to stay”. Compared to other gaming fads like the recent trend in 3D display functionality, virtual reality is such an innovative new feature that we’ve already come to accept it as more than something that will flash in and out of public consciousness. With backing from Facebook, he argues, Oculus also has the financial standing to weather initial skepticism.

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Teflon: £500 for the Oculus Rift certainly puts it out of reach for a lot of prospective buyers, but as I wrote last week, that’s OK. This is the first generation headset with an emphasis on providing the best possible experience over being readily available, and that’s important for people to be able to see the potential of VR instead of just disappointing downsides.

We can expect a similar no compromises attitude from the HTC Vive, which will doubtless be more expensive thanks to the headset having a few more features, the controllers and base stations for its Room Scale VR. So the one real hope of accessible pricing comes from the PlayStation VR, and I believe there is a significant opportunity for Sony to make it a platform that millions can invest in, both in terms of simply needing a PlayStation 4 instead of a PC that costs 3-4 times more and in terms of relatively attractive pricing of the headset itself.

You’ve just got to remember that this is the first wave of technology. As with any major innovation, these things start off expensive before the price comes down over several years. In two or three years time, the price of entry for an Oculus Rift and the hardware capable of powering it will be significantly lower than it is now.


So, what do you think about the Rift’s pricing? Have you already set aside a small fortune for a headset or has the £500 price tag put an early nail in the VR coffin?

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16 Comments

  1. I think the price is right for a device that is first to the market and very highly specced, as Teflon has already said.

    Though it is a shame the price isn’t around the £350-£400 mark, the £500 barrier +P&P +import duty will hurt us UK/European buyers much more than North American buyers. And then of course we have to ask, will the UK actually see the 20% levy or is that just for show?

    Then you have to buy around £800 worth of PC just to use it, in the very least you’ll need a £250 Nvidia GTX 970 if you don’t already have one.

    This makes the entry point very high for PC gamers.

    Now if Sony can launch Morpheus for £400 or less then that’s all you need if you already have a PS4, and 35 million people do. But with Sony’s financial woes, can they afford to take a hit on the hardware in the hope of selling more games and more PS4’s?

    But in 2 years time it’ll all be moot anyway, we’ll see cheap but good quality Chinese alternatives for £100 on flea-bay. The only question is… can you wait?

    • Not sure where you are getting this “Sony’s financial woes” from? Sony have been doing really well since Kaz took over, they were in the black in the last statement and continue to cut off the businesses that make a loss. The share price was the highest it has been last year, and even after a the rest of the Far East crashed at the end of last year, Sony are still doing well.

      • Just because they’ve recently become profitable doesn’t instantly undo the years of losses and debts they’ve run up. They’ve also had to spend untold billions of yen restructuring i.e. optimising the business, cutting off underperforming divisions etc. They’re also incredibly susceptible to the strength of the dollar. So yeah, recently more healthy but by no means out of the woods…

      • As Hornet says, they’re not out of the woods yet.

      • Oh absolutely not, but they’re a long way from being utterly fucked, which is what they were a few years back. Kaz has done a fantastic job, they arent the big risk they used to be.

  2. The price feels too high, or maybe I should say it’s too expensive for me. Most of us can plan ahead, save up and spend £500 every few years on something we really want, but not on impulse, those people are gonna be few and far between. However, Apple has managed to make their frighteningly expensive phones common as muck, so with the right marketing, enthusiasm and monthly payment contracts then VR has the potential to move display technology ahead big time. The next biggest problem is going to be showing it off, there need to be demo units absolutely everywhere, so we’re sick of seeing them, and lots of promotion for the games. Maybe cinemas could have VR areas where you could pay £5 to play for for 30mins or get 5mins free when you buy a ticket to see a film? All of the VR companies need to learn well from the mistakes of the 3D telly manufacturers.

    • Thats an interesting point.. If Occulus had been bought by Apple, rather than Facebook, would we still have a problem with the price?

      • The thing is mobile phones are essential to most people now, a vr headset isn’t. Plus most pay for them on a monthly contract, not outright.

  3. I understand that new tech doesn’t come cheap, but i think that the current pricing means that the new tech won’t be coming as quickly as i’d hoped.
    As it’s in it’s infancy, i think each VR tech and the software development/evolution for them will be co-dependant on each other’s initial success/market saturation, and with a hefty entry price-point, i can only see that saturation and evolution developing at a slow pace until it becomes more affordable.
    The VR revolution doesn’t begin this year, i’m guessing it’ll be at least another five years before things kick off.

  4. I would rather buy a new television than a VR headset.

  5. VR doesn’t really interest me, in the same way motion control didn’t. Mainly due to the fact that when I get in from work and fancy playing something, I just wanna sit on my fat arse and do as little movement as possible.

  6. I think VR has some potential in the mass market but personally I have no interest. I prefer to do my gaming without strapping a large lump of plastic to my face.

    If VR strikes a cord with hardcore gamers then it will gain that essential early foothold. Prices will then slowly reduce, eventually providing access to a large market of curious casual gamers.

    At the moment VR faces a long and uncertain road to success. I am interested in how this will develop overtime, but as previously stated have no intention of taking the plunge myself.

    • VR will also have to work hard to throw off the shackles of being a gimick. Something it may struggle to do. I’m not entirely convinced that the concept is more than a gimick.

      HTC Vice will struggle more than most in this regard due to its inclusion of motion controls as an integral component.

      • Just wait till you’ve tried it…. :)

      • ..Which is all well & good to say until you get cynics like myself where we just wont bother. You have to remember that this won’t be for everyone.

        This doesn’t appeal to me at all (& in fact, Steelhead hit my sentiments exactly in that this is just a gimmick to me), so they are going to have to work hard to get this out there properly.

        Personally, I think it will die a death as soon as people realise that its a bit pricey & then people stop developing for it as there just isn’t the install base.

        Happy to be proven wrong on that front, but I just don’t see it taking off like they seem to.

  7. Considering Sony’s 3D HMD cost over a grand when released Oculus’s price is understandable, but still more than I expected. I’m hoping Sony will undercut it by a fair bit when they eventually announce the price as I’ll be buying the PSVR as soon as it’s launched.

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