OPINION: Outrage at the Oculus Rift price forgets how advanced and complicated a product the Rift is argues Andy Vandervell
This is a predictable outrage. Gamers, ever cursed with a noisy, entitled lunatic fringe, took to social media to decry the $599/£499 asking price for what promises to be a revolutionary bit of kit.
They moaned ever louder once Oculus confirmed a new one will come out next year, perhaps labouring under the idea Oculus would just down tools and do nothing for a few years – it’s not as if your Rift will stop working after a year, is it?
Palmer Luckey, founder and CEO of Oculus, was decent enough to admit he’d handled things badly. He had, in the past, suggested the Rift would be around $350 (£250) or more, but Oculus also previously stated that a Rift and a PC powerful enough to run it could run to over $1,500/£1,000 – as our look at how much an Oculus ready PC will cost, that’s more or less correct.
Oculus never claimed it was producing a mass market product and a brief glance at the tech inside the Rift proves why. The Oculus Rift is pushing previously unexplored boundaries, and that costs money.
There are two Full HD OLED screens in the Rift. Not just cheap, OLED panels, but high-performance OLED panels running at 90Hz to ensure smooth, stutter-free motion.
There’s expensive optics in the lenses to create the virtual sensation, built-in headphones with top-end 3D audio technology and high-quality sensors to enable the 6-axis motion detection.
I’m not done yet.
You’ll get an Xbox One controller, which is $59/£40 on its own, and there’s an external camera sensor and a remote for controlling non-gaming functions.
You get all that for $50/£40 less than an iPhone 6S and $150/£120 less than an iPhone 6S Plus. Neither have an OLED display, let alone two of them, and the optics inside the Rift are no less complicated than the iPhone’s camera.
Oculus doesn’t have decades of supply chain experience. Oculus doesn’t have the buying power of a seasoned manufacturer shipping millions of products. And Oculus won’t even make money on the Rift hardware, as Luckey confirmed in his recent Reddit AMA.
The Rift even compares reasonably to consoles and new tech of times past. Sure, it’s at the higher end of the scales, but it’s trying to do things few other products in the list did. Oculus isn’t being unreasonable, it’s selling a hugely complex product that’s been years in the making at a price that makes them no money.
The price of innovation is always high, but it will come down. Anyone writing off the Rift on this account should show a little faith.
And quit whining.
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