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While early adopters have been paying through the nose to experience virtual reality from the ground floor up this past 18 months or so, the price of VR is now gradually creeping into the realms of affordability for the rest of us. Oculus has now announced the Oculus Rift plus a pair of Oculus Touch controllers has been reduced permanently down to $399, compared to its peak of $878 last year.
Worldwide shipments of dedicated VR headsets reached 2.1 million units for the first quarter of 2017, according to figure released by the International Data Corporation (IDC). Of these, 0.77m were tethered headsets (PSVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift). Surprisingly, it’s Sony’s PlayStation VR that’s built up the biggest head of steam, shifting an impressive 429,000 units in the quarter and making it the best-selling tethered headset of the quarter.
Oculus hosted its annual VR presentation this week, officially announcing a launch date and pricing for its Oculus Touch motion controllers. As expected these don’t come cheap. A set of Oculus Touch controllers will set you back a wallet-shredding $199.
It's kind of the opposite of what we've come to expect from PC gaming, but Oculus has announced it's done some optimisation from its end and it's managed to lower the Oculus Rift minimum system requirements originally announced back in mid-2015. Oculus has got tricksy with some new "asynchronous spacewarp" tech, eliminating dropped frames and allowing a game which runs natively at 45 FPS to be output at 90 frames per second.
A complete teardown of the Oculus Rift’s components has been performance by market analyst IHS, revealing the virtual reality headsets cost just over $200 to manufacture. The CV1 version of the headset retails for $600, with Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe claming the Rift would be sold at “the lowest cost possible” in order to provide maximum market penetration for virtual reality.
This time last year it looked as if there could be only one dominant force in the VR market. After its hugely successful Kickstarter campaign and the big money Facebook buyout, the Oculus Rift had become a household name. However, this hasn’t necessarily translated into sales figures, with the latest data showing the HTC Vive outselling the Rift by as much as two to one.
Imagine if Battlefield 5 was only playable on a GeForce graphics card. Or Half-Life 3 needed an Asus monitor. Tying games is a bit of a ridiculous thought, but in truth it’s no different to what is being done with the Oculus Rift. In framing the VR headset as a platform rather than peripheral, it has given Oculus free rein to build a closed ecosystem. Naturally enough the pioneering VR creator has come under fire, but Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey has come out and defended his company’s decision to invest in exclusive content.
When it comes to VR, the issue of exclusive games is a treacherous tightrope. With Oculus snapping up exclusive games for the Rift left, right, and centre, and the Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive all running on totally separate storefronts, getting access to the best of the very limited selection of VR games basically forces you to splash out on three headsets, and that’s not even taking into account the eventual arrival of PlayStation VR. The landscape has changed in an instant though with a new hack allowing Oculus exclusives to be playable on the HTC Vive.
Never ones to be outdone, the HTC Vive has suffered a similarly turbulent launch as the Oculus Rift. Both VR headsets have struggled with supply constraints and deliveries, with many customers who pre-ordered for day one availability still awaiting the hardware. The HTC Vive launched on April 5th while the Oculus Rift arrive on March 28th.
In case you missed it, and let’s face it you probably did, the Oculus Rift officially launched yesterday, and it’’ll be joined by the HTC Vive next week. Jamming away on the latest VR tech needs the appropriate support though, and both AMD and Nvidia have obliged with their latest driver updates.
Unless you've miraculously got $1400 burning a hole in your pocket, if you want to jump on-board early with virtual reality then you've got a major decision on your hands - Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive. The former is the standard bearer for VR; the household name. The Oculus Rift will set you back a cool $600 and will net you the headset, an Xbox One controller and two games. This is up against the HTC Vive, which comes at a premium $800 price point. There's plenty more in the package to justify that cost though, including room-space sensors and a pair of motion controllers.