Palmer Luckey Cautions Against 'Affordable' 1st Gen Oculus Rift Expectations
Oculus VR CEO Palmer Luckey took to Twitter last week to reveal news on the Oculus Rift retail release, as well as provide a tinge of realism to some of the speculation regarding the Rift headset's final price.
First up is word that pre-orders for the consumer version of the Rift VR headset are due to start early in the New Year, with availability on track for Q1 2016. That represents a slight slip from the 'end of the year' date for preorders announced just before E3, but not a major one. Despite the complex nature of the device - each includes high-quality optics, twin high resolution OLED displays and motion tracking hardware - manufacturing goes well and shows just how valuable the prototyping process has been from DK1 to Crescent Bay.
That comment rather conveniently signposts his follow-up, which addresses some of the price speculation potential consumers have engaged in over the past few months. Discussion has centred around making the Rift affordable, ensuring that VR doesn't continue to be relegated to niche audiences that can provide only a shallow market for games and other interactive experiences. A figure of $350 has been brought up, largely because that was the list price of the DK2 prototype, but Luckey has thus far been careful not to be drawn too far by the questioning.
In a series of tweets (reproduced below) Luckey clarified Oculus's position somewhat, stating that 'VR will become something everyone wants before it becomes something everyone can afford'. Going further still, he maintained that comparisons between the consumer version - hardware with largely bespoke components - and development kits - with off-the-shelf components and sold at a loss overall - were unhelpful. He concludes that although in the future VR will be available to all, the first generation will be the province of early adopters (which we assume to mean those with comparatively deep pockets).
The comments appear to be a response to those naive few expecting to experience Oculus VR on a low-end laptop, whereas at the very least a high performance PC/Laptop will be mandatory. The same appears to go for the retail price: a couple of hundred bucks is unreasonable, with the consumer Rift likely exceeding the DK2's $350 by a not-insignificant margin.
Perhaps the best indicator of price however is the reiteration of a rough 'total system price' of around $1500 for a headset and the system required to run it. Given the minimum specs of such a PC (NVIDIA GTX 970/AMD R9 290, Core i5-4590, 8GB RAM etc.) a headset on the order of $500 isn't outside the realms of possibility. British consumers may get their hands on the Rift for as little as £350, roughly the price of a good gaming monitor, but it wouldn't be the first piece of consumer electronics to receive a substantial hike in the trip over the ocean.