Virtual reality will finally invade people’s homes in 2016, thanks to the release of three major VR headsets: The HTC Vive, Sony’s Project Morpheus (which works with the PlayStation 4), and the long-awaited Oculus Rift.
Back in May, Facebook-owned Oculus VR announced the Rift headset would arrive in the first quarter of 2016, but the company offered no details on pricing or retail availability. But thanks to a new interview with Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, we have a better idea of what to expect with regards to the Rift’s pricing.
At Oculus’ annual developer conference Oculus Connect last week, Luckey was asked by a reporter with the Road To VR blog about whether or not the final consumer version of the Oculus Rift would cost $US350, which was long-rumoured to be the ballpark price of the device. Here’s Luckey’s response:
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.
Luckey is referring to the first and second developer kits of the Oculus Rift, which cost $US300 and $US350, respectively. However, Luckey explained that the higher price was needed to pack in all the best technology that’s currently available.
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 trade-offs you’re going to make. Are you going to optimise 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 say “God, we could have just charged a little more and put a little bit more money into custom hardware and actually achieve that.”
Luckey says the Rift was built with “a lot of custom hardware,” including custom Samsung-built displays optimised for virtual reality. But the Oculus founder noted the Rift needed to be more expensive than Gear VR, an Oculus VR experience that only costs $US100, but cheap enough to attract the largest group of people possible.
Luckey says he’s confident VR will exist at multiple quality points and price points, but the Rift’s focus was, first and foremost, quality.
“I can’t tell you that it’s going to be $US350, and I would say I think people are going to be happy with what they get for the price,” Luckey said. “I really do think it’s going to be the best VR headset you can buy.”
If you think $US350+ is tough to swallow, the costs don’t stop there. The Oculus Rift needs a powerful computer to work properly, which could set you back another $US1,000 or so.
Check out the full interview with Road to VR here.
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