Yes Oculus started taking pre orders for the Oculus Rift on January 6, for $599US not including shipping and handling. The price announcement, as they say, broke the Internet. Many claimed that the price was far more than they were planning to pay and that’s not without reason. While Oculus had never given out a price specifically there was lot of round about talk of a price point of the “DK2” developer kit price of $350. Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey had even stated at one point that the consumer version of the rift would be, “roughly in that ballpark … but it’s going to cost more than that.” The problem being no one, including me quite frankly, thought it was going to be that much more.
Palmer defended the price by saying, “…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 going to be a lower quality experience?” and “This is the best possible experience that we were able to make. No compromises were made in terms of quality.” In the end Palmer apologized for “assuming we had been clear enough about setting expectations” for the headset’s price, saying “I handled the messaging poorly.”
As the initial sticker shock wore off people rationalized the price by both the amount of technology that has gone into the unit, and comparing higher price points for things like early HDTVs and current iPhones. Of course early adopters and developers just shrugged and put in their pre orders anyway. While no hard numbers have been given as to how many Rifts have been presold, it seems to have exceeded Oculus’ expectation. Preorder shipment date had been set for March 28, but within days that expected shipment date increased by weeks and months. As I write this, about 3 weeks after the preorder start, the expected ship date has been pushed out to July 2016 for any preorders made today.
One of the basic rules of negotiation is the first person to name a price loses in the end. So with the price for a high end VR headset fixed at $599 what will that mean for the HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR. Rumors and “price leaks” are all over the map with most putting the price of the Vive higher than the Rift and PSVR lower. Last year HTC had stated that the Vive would be more expensive than the Rift but that was back when the price on the table was $350.
Personally this is how I think the prices will break down. I see the Vive as being the same or only slightly higher than the Rift. The 2 headsets, while having very different head position tracking systems, are very similar in most other aspects. PSVR will be less because the PlayStation can focus on making their money back on games sold and sell their hardware for a loss as they have in the past. For the PSVR base headset around $300 and more for PS4 systems that do not already have the motion camera and controllers around $450 total, with a likely discounted new PS4+PSVR bundle as low as $700.
The previous article appeared in my monthly VR wrap-up for Bright Metallic magazine. Bright Metallic is a Second Life in-world magazine spanning the realms of sci-fi, dystopia, futuristic, industrial and cyberpunk genres featuring articles, events, photography and art from Second Life residents. Bright Metallic Magazine is also available outside of Second life on Issuu.