Oculus Rift to Retail at $599
The consumer electronics industry has been labouring on virtual reality for decades, pursuing what they see as the next major technological innovation of our time. I have never doubted that VR has many practical applications that are both beneficial and profitable. Gaming is certainly one of them, offering a new medium in immersive entertainment. However I have never felt especially enthralled the prospect of VR and what it has to offer. I don’t like experiences that isolate my senses and so the idea of placing a device over my head that does just is far from inviting.
However the development of the Oculus Rift in recent years has been a fascinating process to watch. The project was originally crowd funded in 2012 and those involved with its development had many laudable aspirations. The idea was to create something that was reasonably priced, customisable and accessible to as broader customer base as possible. Virtual reality and specifically the Oculus Rift were seen as part of the ongoing “democratisation” of technology. Sadly that perception took a major knock in July 2014 when Facebook acquired the Oculus VR for $2 billion and the hip indie ideology was replaced by corporate imperatives.
As of today consumers can finally pre-orders the CV1 version of the headset via the Oculus website. The unit price is $599 (£410) and orders will ship in March. This move was timed to coincide with the CES tech show in Las Vegas, where Oculus is demoing the headset. Although the technology on display has been broadly praised the price has not been well received among consumers, especially gamers. Costing $100 more than a next-gen console the device is not going to be universally adopted immediately. It is interesting to note that Oculus have not elected to sell the device at a discounted price to secure a foothold in this new market, despite the presence of competitors.
There are a few other things to consider with regard to the Oculus Rift and the whole VR idea per se. As of yet there is not a killer app for this medium; no essential game that showcases why we need VR. The headset also requires an extremely robust PC to showcase its abilities. Buying one may also require a similar cash outlay on a computer upgrade. There also doesn’t seem to be an immediately obvious ancillary market the developers can rely upon to raise further revenue, such as a licensing scheme or app store. All these factors could work against the Oculus Rift. If the device does not find its predicted market then it could end up being this year’s 3D TV.