With an Xbox One controller, two free videogames and a number of smaller extras included in the box, the Oculus Rift’s $599 USD price tag shouldn’t really come as all that surprising. In fact, when you subtract the $120 USD for Lucky’s Tale and EVE: Valkyrie (optimistically) and the $60 for the controller, it wiggles its way to being just shy of the $200 – $400 bracket the company had projected so many years ago. Not that that will come as much comfort to anyone.
But here’s the thing about the first Oculus Rift; it’s hardcore. That’s meant in terms of quality, in terms of platform and, most importantly, in terms of target audience. Oculus VR knows that it’s pricing out a massive amount of potential customers here, and is more than happy with the early adopter market that probably would have paid several hundred dollars more. It’s thinking about the long game, where components come down in cost and price falls with it as plans for CV2 are made. But what about the short term? Who’s there to fill in the gap while the Oculus Rift remains such a premium product?
The answer could very well be PlayStation VR.
With the $599 tag now out in the open, the PlayStation VR matters more than ever. Granted, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) could end up putting a similar price on its kit, though that’s highly doubtful for a number of reasons. Earlier today, for example, news broke that the $400 maximum tag that Oculus VR had previously noted was from a time in which it was planning to release an updated version of its $350 second development kit (DK2) for its first consumer model. The Facebook acquisition changed all of that but, when you think about it, PlayStation VR still has that model in place.
PlayStation VR is camera-tracked with a 1080p OLED display. That’s exactly what DK2 was. True, it boasts some improvements like the 120Hz refresh rate which may well make the final price point closer to $400, but this could be crucial in keeping the cost of the consumer kit down.
Arguably the most important factor, however, is the fact that 36.9 million people own a PlayStation 4 as of this week. All those many, many people need do is purchase a PlayStation VR – possibly with a PlayStation Camera – and they’re good to go. There’s no need to worry about if they might also need a $1000 PC just to run it. And what might have appeared as costly to many people at first may now look relatively cheap in light of the Oculus Rift price.
Again, this is also assuming that PlayStation VR doesn’t exceed, say, $450 at an absolute maximum. With the Oculus Rift costing what it does, there’s no telling where SCE will decide to stick its flag, but it’s a decision that will be crucial to the first year of VR. If Sony plays its cards right, PlayStation VR could be on the way to a big head start.