The Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) finally launched pre-orders today, revealing a surprisingly high price point of $599 USD. This came as a shock to many fans that had expected the kit to be much lower than that, though the company is including a lot of free additions such as games and an Xbox One controller. Despite this, the backlash has been strong. But Oculus Rift creator and Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey has now come out to place some of the blame on himself for this backlash, noting that he ‘handled the messaging poorly’.
Luckey said as much during a Reddit AMA session today. “I handled the messaging poorly,” he said. “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!”, which was honestly a good thing – the vast majority of consumers (and even gamers!) don’t have a PC anywhere close to the rec. spec, and many people were confused enough to think the Rift was a standalone device. For that vast majority of people, $1500 is the all-in cost of owning Rift. The biggest portion of their cost is the PC, not the Rift itself.”
He continued, talking about the process of answering questions about cost in recent months: “For gamers that already have high end GPUs, the equation is obviously different. In a September interview, during the Oculus Connect developer conference, I made the infamous “roughly in that $350 ballpark, but it will cost more than that” quote. 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. There are a lot of reasons we did not do a better job of prepping people who already have high end GPUs, legal, financial, competitive, and otherwise, but to be perfectly honest, our biggest failing was assuming we had been clear enough about setting expectations. Another problem is that people looked at the much less advanced technology in DK2 for $350 and assumed the consumer Rift would cost a similar amount, an assumption that myself (and Oculus) did not do a good job of fixing. I apologize.”
Luckey concluded by again pointing out that Oculus VR will not be making a profit on the Oculus Rift hardware. He also promised that he would no longer be making ‘ballpark’ figures when it came to price. VRFocus will continue to follow the Oculus Rift closely, reporting back with any further updates.