As we approach the Rift’s Q1 2016 consumer launch, Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey has given us a new minimum for the still unannounced Oculus Rift price.
In the humble beginnings of Oculus, the company sought to create an affordable consumer VR headset that would fall around the $300/$350 price point of the Rift DK1 and DK2 development kits. Much has changed since then and in recent years the company has shied away from specific price claims, but Oculus founder Palmer Luckey closed the gap on one end of the spectrum regarding the price of the Oculus Rift.
In an interview at Connect, I asked Luckey if the consumer Oculus Rift price would come in around that $350 ballpark target that had been discussed by the company long ago. His response is included here in full:
You know, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. We’re roughly in that ballpark… but it’s going to cost more than that. And the reason for that is that we’ve added a lot of technology to this thing beyond what existed in the DK1 and DK2 days.
And it’s not a matter of ‘oh we’re selling more, we can make more money!’ it’s just the reality that when you make this thing you have to decide what tradeoffs you’re going to make; are you going to optimize for absolute lowest price possible, even if it’s gonna be a lower quality experience? Or do you try to say ‘you know what, this is the first consumer VR headset that were going to be pushing out to people. We need to put a stake in the ground and say: this is the best possible experience that we were able to make. No compromises were made in terms of quality’. Get the cost down as much as you can on that experience, but make it so that the Rift is something that everybody wants to use to the best of your ability.
It would really suck if you put something out there and people were like ‘ah man… the Rift is good, but it’s not quite there’, you know? ‘If only it was a little better, if the lenses were a little better, if the resolution was a little better, if the screens had been a little bit better, then it would be great because you’d you’d say ‘god, we could have just charged a little more and put a little bit more money into custom hardware and actually achieve that’.
The Rift is a lot of custom hardware. It’s using lenses that are some of the hardest to manufacture lenses in any consumer product you can go out and buy. It’s using custom displays we worked on with Samsung that are optimized for virtual reality, in a lot of ways even beyond what you’re actually seeing on these prototypes on the show floor. And the tracking system, the same thing. We could have made tradeoffs that had… honestly like 90% of the tracking quality we had now, and we decided to do things that would bump that quality up a little bit more even though it raised the cost of the headset. I can’t tell you that it’s going to be $350, and I would say I think people are going to be happy with what they get for the price because I really do think it’s going to be that best VR headset you can buy.
It does change the equation a little bit when you’ve got something like Gear VR and when you’re working with partners to make lower cost head mounted displays available to people… it’s a different equation than when you feel like you’re the only person service the entire market, in that case you’re trying to make these balances… what if it was the opposite if you were like ‘if only it’d been a little cheaper then we would have been able to reach more people,’ but with all the projects we’re working on and all the partners we’re working on, I’m confident there’s going to be VR existing at multiple quality points and price points and with the Rift, it makes sense to do what nobody else is doing which is invest in making the best possible quality headset.
Price wasn’t the only thing Luckey touched on in our interview, stay tuned for more.