Virtual reality has been a dream since before the first television. To the surprise of many, that dream may stay a dream following the pre-sale price of the Oculus Rift. Costing a hefty $600, the first consumer version of the Oculus Rift will cost as much as two PS4’s. It’s definitely more than the Internet expected, and puts a damper on the excitement many were feeling for VR, but is the price fair? Given that it’s the first version of new technology (and the Apple Watch is priced around here as well), I’d have to say it’s absolutely priced fairly. That being said, the Oculus team could have been more transparent leading up to the announcement to reduce some of the sticker shock.
To understand why the Internet is so upset over this price, we need to take a step back. Expectations for the price of the Oculus Rift were that the device would cost around $350. Palmer Luckey, Oculus founder, said so in an interview during Oculus Connect last September. Before that, Luckey said the following during an AllThingsD interview in 2013.
Oops. The Oculus Rift costs $600.
Luckey did a Reddit Ask Me Anything last Wednesday to coincide with Oculus’s pre-sale, but most of his answers were damage control. He apologized for misleading fans about the price and gave a very lengthy explanation about why it happened at all. He took responsibility for the mistake and assured people that the included Xbox One controller and free games didn’t contribute to the price. He also clarified that they are selling the Oculus Rift at a loss.
So, there was clearly some miscommunication about the Oculus Rift’s price, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fair price. Virtual Reality will become a consumer product this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s mainstream yet. To take advantage of VR outside of Google Cardboard or Samsung’s Gear VR (both use cell phones as screens, drastically cutting down the price at quality’s expense), you’re going to need a PC. Not only do you need a PC, you need a good PC. On top of that, you need to be a pretty passionate gamer or filmmaker, and likely, a little bit of a nerd (in all the best ways, of course).
There won’t be all that many Oculus Rifts sold initially because of those concerns, so economies of scale aren’t there to save consumers money. On top of that, the Oculus Rift is brand new technology. The first rule of tech is that the first iteration of a product is more expensive. Just like 4K televisions, you can expect the price of the Oculus Rift to drop over time. The problem here isn’t that the first version of a new technology is expensive. The problem is that expectations were wrongfully set. Consumers are right to be a little disappointed, but my advice is to not be too worried. The Oculus Rift won’t be $600 forever and, when it’s cheaper, there will likely be more features to enjoy on it.