Finally, You can order an Oculus Rift
Today is a momentous day for VR. It’s the first day you can order the consumer Oculus Rift.
Pre-orders opened at 8am. And those in the first batch will be getting theirs shipped on March 28th, just meeting the Q1 2016 promise by Oculus.
As was to be expected, there was an avalanche of users on the Oculus site. And many reported website problems. Many were not able to place their orders for up to 30 minutes. This was especially frustrating, because by about 8:10, all subsequent orders got an expected ship date pushed back to April. And all orders placed after about 8:30 got an expected ship date of May.
Palmer Luckey Tweeted about the heavy traffic:
We are experiencing insanely high load. Credit card processing is trying to stay livr under load from mass script kiddie fraud attempts.
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) January 6, 2016
VRPorn.com 7:59am Pre-Pre-Order
VRPorn.com was fortunate to lock in a 7:59am order, before the official opening rush started at 8am. This was because shop.oculus.com went live at about 7:57am before the Oculus pre-order link page was updated.
More Sales than Expected
There was huge interest in the Oculus pre-order today. The Oculus Subreddit has blown up with 10,000+ users all day, from the usual amount of several hundred. And posts about the event have even reached the front page of reddit. Palmer comments on the turn out:
Wow, people really want Rifts. There must be a lot of lurkers in the VR community. — Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) January 6, 2016
The Oculus Rift Is a Revolutionary Product
There is a reason there is such a huge interest in the Rift pre-order. It’s a revolutionary product. It’s some mixture of getting hooked up to the internet in the 1990’s, getting an Iphone 1, and watching the precursor to modern day moving pictures. And virtual reality is potentially bigger than all of that.
Get Yours for the Low Low Price of $599.99
Despite all this good news for VR, one can’t help but notice that there is a lot of talk about the price. $599.99 is higher than most people expected.
Oculus Made a Mistake in Setting Low Price Expectations
The Dk1 and Dk2 were $300 and $350 respectively. And Oculus went on record as saying they were shooting for a $200-$400 price tag for the consumer Oculus Rift.
$1500 Real Entry Price
On top of this, you will need a high-end PC to run the Rift. This brings the entry price to about $1500.
Price too high for many
That is well outside the range of what mainstream consumers are likely to pay. And even a considerable number of hardcore VR enthusiasts are having a problem with that price. The Oculus subreddit has exploded with posts about the price tag.
Some Things to Consider
We would all love it if you could buy a new Rift for $300 and use it on whatever old computer you have at home. This would ensure a quicker mass adaptation around the world.
High quality VR for 2016
But unfortunately, that is just not where the technology is yet. Oculus is being very careful about introducing VR that meets a minimum quality standard so that people do not get turned off by VR in these early days. Poor quality VR is unlike other poor quality media: it can be a very uncomfortable experience.
The Price of the Technology Currently
It seems to just be the reality that $1500 is the price of the minimum level of quality VR in 2016. And even Oculus with its Facebook money cannot overcome this hurdle.
Price is actually subsidized to be cheaper
Oculus has confirmed that they are not making a profit off of the Oculus Rift VR Headset sales. The $599 price is being subsidized by Facebook. They are indeed looking at the long term game plan and pushing for mass adaptation instead of trying to profit off of the headset sales.
To reiterate, we are not making money on Rift hardware. High end VR is expensive, but Rift is obscenely cheap for what it is. — Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) January 6, 2016
Price will come down
But this price will surely come down exponentially, year by year, until quality VR is as affordable and indispensable as any of our standard consumer electronics we use on a daily basis. After all, new high end smartphones are $600-$800, and you can buy basic ones for only $100 that are better than the first Iphones.
And we have to keep this $599 figure in perspective. It is orders of magnitude cheaper than quality virtual reality was until only recently. And such technology wasn’t even possible just a few years ago.
The Oculus Rift represents the state of the art of consumer VR. But even this level of VR will seem poor in the not too distant future. We will wonder how we ever tolerated such low quality VR. It will be like comparing our modern game systems to Pong, except Pong never made you puke.
The huge influx of chatter about the price is reminiscent of what happened when it was announced that Facebook bought Oculus in 2014. The Oculus subreddit suddenly had 20 times its usual traffic full of people commenting on the situation. The general feeling of these comments was that Oculus had sold out and that VR would be forever tainted.
But most of these commenters were not part of the long-time Oculus subreddit community. The core community was much more positive about the situation. Since that time, many have come to believe that having one of the world’s most influential and rich companies backing Oculus is actually a pretty good thing for VR.
A great example of this is the case of Notch, the creator of the billion dollar blockbuster Minecraft. On the day of the acquisition, he was very publicly against it. But later that year he grew fonder of the idea.
Well, the Oculus is up for preorder and some people are surprised by the $600 pricetag. I’m not exactly sure where people got the impression that the first piece of true consumer-ready VR was actually going to be cheap tech. We are talking about the cutting edge of what is possible with gaming right now, a device that has multiple high resolution, high framerate displays, minaturised and built right into it, advanced head tracking technology and god knows what else.