In an aggressive move that’ll help lower the bar of entry still further for VR, Oculus have announced sizeable permanent price drops for both the Oculus Rift headset and Oculus Touch controllers, both now cut by $100 each.
There are many challenges VR still faces in becoming an accepted part of everyday life. Leaving the technical challenges with form factor, performance, and experience aside, it’s the high price of entry that is one of the industry’s biggest challenges. If you’re starting from scratch, without a gaming PC, getting up to speed with even with a modest spec gaming rig and the requisite VR headset and controllers will set you back more than many non-enthusiasts are willing to pay right now.
Now, Oculus have announced they are to aggressively cut the price of both their flagship VR headset the Oculus Rift and their motion controllers (which launched late last year) by $100 each. To be absolutely clear here, this is not a one-time offer, sale or bundle; the prices of both products will drop permanently.
This drop brings the Oculus Rift headset from $599 down to $499 and the Touch controllers (sold separately) down to $99. This means that together, a full set of VR hardware with motion control capabilities will cost a total of $598 retail (down from $798). As a comparison, the Rift’s most direct competitor, the Steam VR powered HTC Vive, costs $799 as of writing. HTC recently announced financing options for the Vive to help customers spread out the cost of the product over time.
Speaking with Road to VR, Oculus’ Nate Mitchell says that the price cut is driven by improvements in manufacturing and a desire to bring more people into VR, not because there’s an impending ‘Rift 2.0’ announcement.
We’ve read all the stories and looked at the analyst reports. VR is going through the normal adoption cycle for new pieces of technology. We saw hype into launch, facing impossible expectations, and we will eventually break out with the “hockey stick” of mass adoption.
Oculus believes, as do the thousands of original Kickstarter backers and millions of current users, that VR is the next computing platform. We also know that if there aren’t major investments made to the ecosystem, it’s going to take a really long time to reach that eventuality. So today, Oculus is aggressively making the high end of VR more attainable.
Rubin acknowledges that “price matters,” and that progress in lowering the bar of entry for PC VR hardware has been made in the last year.
Today’s new, lower price of Rift and Touch doubles down on a year of dropping PC and graphics card prices. It’s costs 30% less for someone to walk into a store and outfit a complete high end PC VR experience, including desktop PC, Rift, and Touch, than it did just a year ago when we launched Rift.
We believe this lower entry price will attract consumers to PC VR at a faster pace. This is universally good for the entire community, but especially for developers. A larger userbase means higher potential sales, easier player matching, better communities, and results in the ability to invest more in titles. This increased investment means better software which in turn brings more consumers. This virtuous cycle is the fuel that can launch PC VR.
However, as is appropriate for Rubin’s position, he points out that cheap hardware is nothing without worthwhile, compelling software. To that end, he says that Oculus is highly committed to both producing and helping to enable more and more VR content this year and beyond, but serves a useful reminder that VR is still in its infancy.
We have to remember that as of this GDC, our developer community has had dev kits in their hands for less than two years and has only been able to get feedback from consumers about what they’re doing for a year. With that frontier style development behind us, and with second generation development and informed design taking place, the sweet spot for developers to create breakout hits opens. Some of these titles will become perpetually loved VR series that are with us for generations.
Rubin says however that in 2017, Oculus will “launch an Oculus Studios title almost once a month on PC alone,” going on to say “Add to those releases the dozens of organically funded titles coming to the ecosystem and it’s just a great time for consumers to get into PC VR”
It’s great news for those consumers who have felt VR has been beyond them in terms of price up until now. Although VR is still a relatively expensive thing to get into, the rapidity at which affordability is increasing is heartening, and Oculus’ move today will hopefully set a trend in the industry to continue driving those prices down.