The price of the Oculus Rift has finally been announced at the very last minute. You might want to make sure you are sitting down before you continue reading. Ready? The pre-order price of the Oculus Rift is… $599! Five hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Wow. I mean, that’s literally double the price of the Oculus Rift development kit. I know that’s not a fair comparison to make since the hardware is much more advanced than ever before. What I don’t understand though is all of the confusing decisions that the team at Oculus have been making.
The first confusing thing is the inclusion of an Xbox One controller. Shouldn’t something like that be optional? Those controllers have a retail price of $59.99, and most people already own some sort of controller for their pc either way. An Xbox 360 controller works great with pc, and you can easily find one used these days. Excluding that would drop the price down to the $540-550 range, which is still too expensive.
The other confusing decision they made was to give out the consumer headset for FREE to the original Kickstarter backers that purchased a $300 development kit. No one was expecting that to happen and it makes me wonder what they were thinking. They are literally going to give away thousands of consumer headsets for free while charging everyone else $599. Did they raise the price to $599 to make up for the cost of giving those headsets away? What made Oculus want to give headsets to people that weren’t expecting them? Was it a random act of kindness or were they worried about some sort of legal situation that was haunting them?
This whole thing is very strange to me, because Palmer Luckey and many of the other heads at Oculus constantly stated how they wanted VR to be affordable and widespread as much as possible. I guess they kept their word in terms of the Gear VR, but that’s not exactly a powerful platform when compared to having VR on a PC. This is not only disappointing, but it makes me concerned that VR will lose popularity without getting a chance. The audience for VR is going to be drastically lower than what it could be, and game developers might see it as too risky to make something for a limited user base.
The only hope that’s left is with the competition. Valve is about to release their “Vive” VR headset in a few months. They are definitely going to pay close attention to how well Oculus sells and they will most likely try to set their price as low as possible. Sony also has their “PlayStation VR” headset around the corner as well. Sony knows all too well that consumers have a maximum price that they are willing to pay for an entertainment device. At least we know the reason why Oculus didn’t want to announce the price until the very last minute. This could be the biggest joke of 2016.
Edit: I found this interesting quote from Palmer Luckey himself back in June of 2013:
If something’s even $600, it doesn’t matter how good it is, how great of an experience it is — if they just can’t afford it, then it really might as well not exist. (Source: AllThingsD.com)