The VR Price Wars: Is Now The Best Time To Take The Plunge?
VR becomes even more affordable as prices continue to fall.
It’s been 17 months since Oculus Rift and HTC Vive first arrived on the scene, ushering in a new era of immersive entertainment for consumers around the globe. Those first few months had their fair share of problems – mostly stock issues with some pre-order customers having to wait weeks after launch to get their orders. Those problems were ironed out, and over the next year the industry grew even more though the price of entry was still very high for most. Forward to today and the competition is fiercer than ever, prompting manufacturers to go on a price offensive to bring more gamers into the virtual reality (VR) fold.
While HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have seen several discount days, such as Black Friday or Vive Day, dropping the price by $100 USD/£100 GBP these have only been temporary. That was until Facebook/Oculus launched the ‘Summer of Rift’ sale which not only saw plenty of content discounts but also a massive hardware price reduction.
Most marketing research companies such as Superdata put Oculus Rift in last place in terms of unit sales. So it’s no surprise that Oculus decided to be more aggressive in its strategy, dropping the cost of the headset by $200, from $598 to $399 for a limited time. While this deal is only for a few more weeks there’s still going to be a permanent reduction to $499. What you get in the package is also different, with the Xbox One controller now removed and the Oculus Touch motion controllers now included as standard.
So where is main PC rival HTC Vive in all of this? If you caught the news earlier today you’ll have seen HTC’s response. The company had kept quiet on a drop in price, keeping its head-mounted display (HMD) at its launch price of $799. While HTC Vive may have been the more successful of the two, with such a price discrepancy it was no surprise that the company also chopped $200 off, bringing the headset down to $599.
Both of these reductions are great news for consumers. Yes the headsets aren’t exactly cheap but they’re far more affordable than they were, and they both have excellent content libraries full of titles that showcase how good VR is. On top of that, PC hardware is constantly coming down in price so the days of having to spend well over $1000/£1000 for a PC and HMD setup are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Let’s not forget the current frontrunner of high-end VR though, and that’s PlayStation VR. Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is still leading the way with over one million headsets sold, partially due to the dominance of PlayStation 4, and the fact that PlayStation VR was the cheapest headset. That’s not the case at present due to the Oculus Rift sale, once that’s ended SIE’s HMD will again be the most affordable out of the three.
It maybe cheaper but PlayStation VR doesn’t offer the same level of immersion as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Both of these can offer full roomscale compatibility – the former straight out of the box, while the latter really needs a third sensor – something the PlayStation VR can’t do due to its single camera system. Also the PlayStation Move controllers are old tech, having been released in 2010 and re-appropriated for VR. While Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive controllers have been designed specifically for VR, offering greater accuracy and intuitive controls.
These reductions aren’t likely to worry SIE anyway. If the company does plan on making PlayStation VR even more affordable it’ll be toward the end of the year, likely around its first anniversary. If this does happen it’s unlikely that HTC or Oculus would try and compete, or risk turning the headsets into loss leaders.
Whatever happens it’s all for the benefit of the VR industry and community. As headset sales more developers will jump on board to take advantage of the growing market. In turn, more gamers will want to play the growing roster of videogames, adding more players to multiplayer titles and increasing the profitability of VR in general.