Oculus VR announced the release date for their buzzworthy VR headset, the Oculus Rift, this morning: March 28. (You won’t be getting one then unless you already preordered within the first 15 minutes the thing went on sale.) But it’s the retail cost of the Rift that has everyone talking: $600. It wasn’t that long ago the developers were throwing around a $300 to $400 cost estimate. What happened?
You can blame Zuckerburg, basically. The development kit that was sent to game makers was different from the final product, and contained flicker and framerate issues Oculus couldn’t resolve. When Facebook bought the device and started bringing them truckloads of money, Oculus had the cash to solve these issues with high-end electronics — a cost that was ultimately passed down to the consumer.
For a king’s ransom you’ll get a box containing: a headset with built-in headphones and mic, a standalone sensor that tracks the Rift’s position, the Oculus Remote, and an XBox One controller, which will work with the device.
If the price isn’t enough of a barrier for the average worker, the requirements will take care of the rest of them: the Oculus Rift runs on a PC’s processor, which needs to be very very high-end to work. You need eight gigabytes of RAM, an Intel i5-4590 processor and the Nvidia GTX 970 or the AMD R9290 graphics cards at the least. Plus a whopping four USB ports just to plug the beast in, three of which must be USB 3.0.
Oculus can’t bend on this, because they’re selling the Rift at a loss as it is. Creator Palmer Luckey said to the press that from his perspective, $600 for a Rift was “insanely cheap.” He tweeted, “It is obscenely cheap in the same way a $599 120″ 4K OLED TV would be obscenely cheap – more for 599 than most products.”
Add to this the fact that the Rift is a brand-new, unproven type of device with barely any apps at launch. It should have no problem selling out initially from hype alone, but how long can that last? Time will tell us if the Oculus Rift is the product that finally breaks VR into the mainstream, but its climb up just got a lot harder.