Today, Oculus announced their Virtual Reality apparatus, a product years in the making, named the “Oculus Rift” would be sold via a pre-order for the price of $599.99. Five hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety nine cents. For me, a college student, who before this morning had two jobs, could only look at the price and remember another “cutting edge” device called the Playstation 3, and make the comparisons. Vastly different, but similar in ambition. BluRay won the format war, and it makes me wonder if we’ll see a new format war in the face of VR. Is Playstation VR (formerly known under the code name “Morpheus”) that alternative format, or is this a similar comparison with the Microsoft’s X-Box One and Sony’s own Playstation 4, where both machines run the same format as far as technology goes, and outside of a few design differences are now regulated to a choice of OS you want to choose.
In a Reddit AMA done today, Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey admitted that his messaging could have been clearer when people looked at two different price quota’s, one $1500 and another $300, saying, “I handled the messaging poorly. Earlier last year, we started officially messaging that the Rift+Recommended spec PC would cost roughly $1500. That was around the time we committed to the path of prioritizing quality over cost, trying to make the best VR headset possible with current technology. Many outlets picked the story up as “Rift will cost $1500!””. He even compared the two prices in the vein of his terminology of a ballpark range. “As an explanation, not an excuse: during that time, many outlets were repeating the “Rift is $1500!” line, and I was frustrated by how many people thought that was the price of the headset itself. My answer was ill-prepared, and mentally, I was contrasting $349 with $1500, not our internal estimate that hovered close to $599 – that is why I said it was in roughly the same ballpark. Later on, I tried to get across that the Rift would cost more than many expected, in the past two weeks particularly.”
Luckey has been on the scene since the initial Kickstarter Campaign in 2012, and the guy is the furthest thing from “corporate”. One of his favorite bands is Dragonforce, announcing at the 2015 Video Game Awards, with an overwhelming sense of boyhood glee that Harmonix was launching Rock Band VR for the Oculus. He did this while wearing beige cargo shorts, a blue button down shirt, and flip flops. Bought by Facebook, Oculus has had the backing necessary to bring this new tech to the forefront. But will the price of $599.99 be too high? All we can do is wait, and see. At the end of the day, hardware may not be as important as the killer apps needed to sustain the technology past the nuance of gimmick, and into the broader mainstream for Gamer’s out there. I’ve lived through both the format transition from VHS to DVD, and cassette tape to cassette disk. I’ve lived through the format wars of miniDisk vs iPod, and HD-DVD vs BluRay. I owned a Sega Dreamcast as the company has continued to spiral it’s way down this odd descent it’s been through. I remember thinking the original X-Box was going to flop.
This is what awaits us in 2016. The market is shifting in ways we can only hypothesize, and I for one am looking forward eagerly. Will the Nintendo NX (“X gonna give it to ya”-DMX, Greg Miller) be the lifeline Nintendo needs to stay relevant and evolve into the current generation? Will it be the shot of adrenaline in it’s spiral similar to Sega’s? Can the X-Box One sales pass Playstation 4’s this year? When I play Drinkbox Studios Severed, will I finish it, unlike Guacamele? (I’m stuck at the desert part, I took a break from it and don’t have a clue where I am.) Will Taco Master climb the charts as more people realize their subconscious desire to own, operate, and feed the masses from their very own Taco Cart? 2016? Give me what you’ve got!
Palmer Luckey’s Reddit AMA: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/3zt7ul/i_am_palmer_luckey_founder_of_oculus_and_designer/
Pre-Order Page for the Oculus Rift: https://shop.oculus.com/en-us/cart/