3 simple reasons why a discount on Oculus Rift is not enough to bring them more users
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Photo Credit: Oculus Rift

Despite being a first mover in the VR space, Oculus seems to be falling behind in selling devices. This is why that could actually be a good thing for the company

In a surprise announcement last week, virtual reality dynamo Oculus released that they will be slashing prices for the Rift and Touch package down to $598. While still not chump change, this new price sounds a lot better than $798.

Posting to the company’s blog, an executive from the company named Jason Rubin laid out how they continue to see VR as the future of computing, and hope that this drop in price will help in “making the high end of VR more attainable” for the masses.

But will the price shift be enough to drive sales? There are a couple of other factors to consider that could keep the Rift from becoming a household item.

1. The high price of gaming computers

Taking a gander over at Oculus’s site, they were kind enough to lay out a number of machines that they have termed “Oculus ready” and are up to snuff for gameplay. So what are we waiting for?

Well, according to the Amazon link provided on the page to pick up one of these sweet packages, the basic machine will run me about $900. Add on the Rift and we’re up to $1400.

Image Credit: Screenshot of Amazon.com showing Oculus Rift

At these kinds of prices, only a small and very dedicated group of hardcore gamers and first adopters will be willing to lay out this kind of money. It could also hurt their ability to reach out to younger users since this kind of purchase probably falls outside of most parents’ Christmas gift buying budget.

2. Not enough content

A platform is only as good as its content. As such a young gaming system, there are still only a limited number of titles out there to play. Almost as important here is the chicken and egg situation of fewer developers wanting to jump in and make games for a less popular platform. So how do you get past this?

Rubin addresses this need early on, touting that a number of brand spanking new games should be headed our way pretty soon. The five games that we should look forward to this year that are listed on the blog post are a good start, but it may not be enough.

3. Stiff competition

Even as many people associate Oculus as being out in front of the VR revolution, the good folks over at HTC and Sony have done a decent job playing catch up. Having decided perhaps wisely not to release their sales numbers at this point, the tone of Rubin’s post seems to confirm that they have not reached the level that perhaps they wished they would have been at by this point.

Sony for their part appears more confident, even a bit surprised by their success, announcing that they have sold over 915,000 devices thus far. This actually makes sense that they would have an easier time making initial sales since their headset can be paired up with their gaming console and does not require the user to go out and pick up a high-end gaming machine just for the VR experience.

However, the real challenge to the Rift will more likely come from the integration of better VR tech into mobile phones like we have seen with the Samsung Gear. Cheaper platforms that do a lot more than just let you play games, these devices are more likely to be the future than the big wired headsets that we see now.

Image Credit: HTC Vive

Image Credit: HTC Vive

Reasons for hope

Given the evidence, Oculus’s future as a headset seller seems less bright than we may have thought.

To be fair, having taken Rift for a test run or two, it is one hell of a solid product. The game play is way smoother on their device than any of the mobile-based versions have shown themselves to be. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really matter much.

The issue is that even if it becomes the dominant platform among gamers, this is not why Facebook decided to scoop them up for $2 billion. By all accounts, Zuckerberg and co intend to see Oculus and VR at large become a major medium for communication.

Whether through video conferences with avatars or some style that hopefully feels more realistic, we’ll just have to wait and see. But how will they pull this off without mass adoption?

This is where we see the interesting question over the future of Oculus as a company emerges. In three to five years, will we be thinking about them as a technology platform powering how we interact with VR or as a consumer device?

We have seen Oculus moving to put their technology behind Samsung Gear, a product not in direct competition which might actually have a much better chance of popularizing VR.

Photo credit: Samsung Gear VR

Photo credit: Samsung Gear VR

Bringing it back to Facebook’s interests, the smart money will be on them going the technology route. Today, Facebook does not care whether you scroll their app on an iPhone or a Samsung. All they want are your eyeballs.

As twisted as it may sound, this is why I am hopeful. I don’t see myself picking up a headset since I’m about the furthest thing from a gamer you’ll find in the tech writing racket. However, I am addicted to my phone and excited for the next few generations of phones that will likely have advanced AR or VR capabilities. I can watch a video, chat, and basically do anything else I would want on a VR headset in the palm of my hand without the heavy demands of gaming.

Whether or not they succeed embedding themselves into the ecosystem and guiding it along the path they have envisioned is still a mystery. So sit back and enjoy the show while they figure that one out.

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Gabriel Avner

About Gabriel Avner

Gabriel has an unhealthy obsession with new messaging apps, social media and pretty much anything coming out of Apple. An experienced security and conflict consultant, he has written for The Diplomatic Club, the Marine War College, and covers military affairs with TLV1 radio. He mostly enjoys reading articles wherever his ADD leads him to and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. EEED 44D4 B8F4 24BE F77E 2DEA 0243 CBD1 3F7C F4B6

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  • OkinKun

    What a strange non-argument to make. O_o
    Sure, point 1 is true enough for most people right now.. Oh well, thankfully the min-spec for VR is going down, which will eventually drive the price requirements of VR PCs/devices in the near future, at least.
    As for 2.. That’s NOT true AT ALL! You’re basically lying through omission there. There’s lots more videos you could put there. Several decent games came out since Touch launched, and have a healthy online multiplayer community whenever I go on them.
    More importantly, and as Oculus have said, there’s a big-budget VR release pretty much every month this year, with plenty of other smaller titles, coming out all the time. This is the result of all the funding Oculus/FB have poured into VR developers. I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but this really is lining up to be the Year of VR Games.. If we’re still in this situation near the end of this year, then fine, but so far it’s looking to be a great year for games. Lots of games to look forward to, and a few great ones JUST came out.
    As for 3.. I don’t think that’s accurate either.. HTC said they don’t want to drop their price, which means Oculus is by FAR the most affordable high-quality PC VR choice. Sony isn’t competing directly with PC VR, and neither is Gear.. And other companies are still probably most of this year away from releasing any hardware, at the earliest.. So no, I don’t see there being a TON of hardware competition this year. It’s looking good for Oculus.

  • GX Studio

    Some things in this article seem a bit wrong. You can, from cyberpower purchase a computer that is Rift Ready (actually qualified to fully support Rift) for $500 now, a good chunk less then the $900 listed, and that price is going to keep dropping as time goes on.

    The second point would have been valid about a year ago, but just isn’t today. There are far to many games and apps available for the Rift through Oculus Home and even on Steam for one person to be able to ever try out fully. We are seeing almost every genre of game, including some new ones, productivity apps, media, and tons of new content showing up every week at a growing pace.

    The third point makes the most sense. The Vive is a solid competitor, as well as PSVR. Mobile is still not quite there, and in some ways might help the Rift as it can be a gateway to those new to the VR industry getting into the door and having their eyes opened to what potential there is. Not only that, but it isn’t clearly stated that the Samsung Gear is powered by Oculus technology – definitely not something to be called direct competition.

    A good read, but a bit dated or just out of Touch.

  • Paul Mills

    sorry buddie, but your wrong.
    There is so much content i dont even have the time to play all of it and im on it everyday.
    Dont forget Oculus is facebook and theyre pouring money into it and have said they will continue to do it over the next 10 years or more. Oculus going down the pan?, i dont think so. The touch controls are like nothing else. Nothing else comes even close.