Oculus Rift pre-orders went live this morning and we finally have a price for the headset: $599. For that price, you get the headset, the sensor, Oculus Remote, the necessary cables, and Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie, and Lucky's Tale. Those who jumped into the pre-order queue early are expected to see their shiny new Oculus Rift after the shipment date of March 28.
The hardware is shipping to countries in total and here's a breakdown of the prices:
- United Kingdom: £499
- Europe: €699
- Australia: $649
- Canada: $849
- Japan: ¥83800
In a word, the Rift is not cheap. It's $100 more than the expected price of the hardware, which many guessed would be $500. It's a far cry from impulse buy range for most gamers. Oculus VR isn't charging pre-order consumers until the hardware ships, so you're essentially holding your place in line, but that's still a good deal of money for the average person to save up until March.
"Rift preorders are different from most of the games industry. You don't get charged until we ship - no deposit lock-in, no bonus pressure," tweeted Rift creator Palmer Luckey. "We won't lock people into preorders months before reviews come out using our awesome preorder bonuses. We have confidence in our product!"
Even beyond that, there's the added cost of your PC. Oculus VR has a downloadable tool for PC that will check if your PC is up to snuff. The minimum requirements call for an Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater, NVIDIA GTX 970/AMD 290 or better, and 8 GB RAM, which will run you around $500 without anything else like a keyboard, case, or monitor. Via partnerships with Alienware, Asus, and Dell, Oculus VR is offering a set of Oculus-Ready PCs for consumers who don't have a robust system and don't want to build one. These systems start at $949, though the company is offering complete bundles starting at $1499.
The Oculus Touch controller isn't included either, though those who preorder the Rift get priority access for Touch pre-orders. Another hit to your wallet if you're all in.
I admit, this is crazy pricey. And a far cry from the price points Oculus VR executives were talking about back in 2013.
"We want to stay in that $200-$400 price range," OCulus VR co-founder Nate Mitchell told Eurogamer in 2013. "That could slide in either direction depending on scale, pre-orders, the components we end up using, business negotiations."
"Whatever it is,"" said Luckey at the time, "it's going to be as cheap as possible."
Which could still be true! $599 may be a high asking price, but it may be perfectly in line with the hardware going into the final Oculus Rift. Yesterday on Twitter, Luckey said the Rift was "subsidized", meaning the company takes a hit on every Rift sold in order to sell units. The company could see the price tag rising from its previous assertions years ago, so it started setting expectations last year.
"In these early days, probably for at least two years, VR is going to be primarily for gamers and enthusiasts that are willing to invest in high-end machines. VR is going to become something mainstream, but it's not going to happen right away," said Luckey last year. "I'm the most optimistic guy about VR out there. I have crazy visions of what we'll be doing in the future. But it's not going to reach hundreds of millions of people in the next three years."
The company also gave away Kickstarter Edition units of the consumer-grade Oculus Rift to its Kickstarter backers, which probably should've been a red flag for many of us. The original Rift development kit started at $300 on Kickstarter and Oculus VR would've weathered some rough waters if they didn't give its original backers some kind of price break.
Enter the Early Adopter
So it's expensive as hell. Definitely not a mainstream machine.
And yet, if you go to pre-order a Rift as of this writing, your planned shipping window is May 2016. Now, we don't know if that's because Oculus VR doesn't have a lot of product on hand or if demand is really that high. I also expect some of that to shift as enthusiasts realize they may not have $600 by March and cancel their pre-orders. But it shows that all is not lost for Oculus.
The Oculus Rift is an early adopter-only kind of machine. You need to have the PC, spend $600 on the Rift, and be ready to shell out for the Oculus Touch and further games. For most of us, it's become a wait-and-see peripheral. It may be amazing, but I personally can't stomach that price for VR at my salary and I'm sure many others are in my boat.
Technology has always had these huge barriers and stratifications. The first HD monitor was created by Panasonic and sold for $6,000 and you still needed a digital tuner box for another $1,700. Samsung's first HDTV cost $7,999. (their current 4K UHDTVs cost $3,799 MSRP.)
In 1962, Everett M. Rogers wrote Diffusion of Innovations, which laid out a curve of innovation adoption in the public. The early adopters section includes those with the means and desire to get in on VR, but also the understanding that they're going to be guinea pigs to find the technology's best and worst experiences. In the case of the Oculus Rift, I'd argue that the innovators have been those folks lugging around Rift Development Kits for a few years now.
These pre-orders are going to the early adopters. They're the people running around with Nvidia GeForce Titans and 30"+ curved G-Sync gaming monitors. $600 is what they pay for a video card, $400 is what they pay for a CPU. The Rift isn't such a bad proposition when you're thinking at those prices. For Oculus and early adopters, I'm not really seeing the current price as a problem. I do think developers who are looking to make money on Oculus VR games need to temper their expectations. You can't put in significant resources and expect a great return with only the early adopters.
Either way VR is starting here, this year, in March. The Oculus Rift will be in affluent consumer hands. HTC and Valve have their Vive platform, Sony has the PlayStation VR coming; for once, we actually have a solid price ballpark for those VR efforts as well. Oculus VR kicked off the VR revolution, so it's appropriate that the company is setting the commercial stage as well.
VR might not be our immediate future, but it's still the future that's coming.