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.
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.
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?