HTC and Valve have announced that the HTC Vive virtual reality headset will have a final price tag of $799, with a planned release date of early april 2016. For that price tag, buyers get the HTC Vive headset, two wireless 3D controllers, and two Lighthouse room sensors. For a limited time, they'll also get two games: Job Simulator by Owlchemy Labs and Fantastic Contraption by Northway Games. Pre-order go live at 10am EST on February 29, 2016.
$799 is crazy talk for the price of a peripheral for most consumers, but moving beyond that segment this price tag becomes an interesting show of force by HTC. The Oculus Rift comes in at $599, which is $200 less than its competition, but keep in mind that the Rift only comes with the Xbox One controller, not the tailor-made-for-VR Oculus Touch controllers. Properitary controllers come with every Vive, meaning developers will be ready for it, while Oculus devs have to rely on the assumption that the Xbox One controller is all they have.
The Rift's sensor rod is also nothing compared to the HTC's Vive robust Lighthouse technology, care of Valve. With Lighthouse, the Vive can handle room-scale VR content, whereas the Rift needs another sensor rod (the Oculus Touch is supposed to come with a second sensor rod for this reason).
Oculus VR has a compelling consumer-grade product with the Rift, but the price tag moves it beyond many mainstream consumers. The Vive is more expensive, but once you get to $600, it becomes a bit easier to swallow another $200 for a more robust VR experience. For HTC, the Vive's price tag is amazingly solid, thanks to the competition framing how much VR should cost. All that remains is for Sony to price out its PlayStation VR headset for the PlayStation 4.
Consumers will also need to pick up a PC that can run HTC Vive content. HTC and Valve have yet to release minimum specifications, but the Vive-ready HTC Envy Pheonix costs $1,699.99 (headset included) and sports a 4.0GHz Intel Core i7-6700K, 16 GB of RAM, and a AMD Radeon R9 390X at minimum. If you want to do VR, your PC needs to go hard.
Regardless, it's clear that the major VR companies aren't expecting the average consumer to get into VR via these devices. Mobile-based solutions like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR are the method of entry for the average person. Right now, the major headsets are for early adopters only and that probably won't change for another few years. Think of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as the Tesla Motors of VR: a compelling and desired product at a price tag most can't afford just yet.