When virtual reality company started talking numbers for the Oculus Rift, ballpark figures for the price of the final consumer version were pegged to be between $300 to $400. On Wednesday this week, the Rift was finally put up for pre-order. It costs $600 before you even factor in shipping and import fees.
So why is it way more expensive than creator Palmer Luckey and the rest of his company had initially planned?
When Facebook purchased Oculus VR, Luckey and co. suddenly had an enormous amount of money to sink into prototyping and design. This resulted in big leaps forward in their VR tech. You could see this happening across the devkits, actually. Devkit 2 was succeeded by the “crescent bay” version, which was quite a jump. The final consumer version has also jumped from that crescent bay version; we now have dual, custom-made screens in each headset, for example.
From the sounds of things, the more money Oculus VR was able to sink into developing the Rift, the more excited they became when they advanced the tech. In the end, as Luckey puts it, they chose “to optimize quality over cost”.
“The Facebook resources allowed us to do that,” Luckey told Polygon, “to say we want to make custom panels. What would a made-for-virtual-reality panel look like?”
We guess from there things snowballed. The result is that instead of the world getting a consumer version based on the Devkit 2, we now have one based on the crescent bay version, which has resulted in a far better VR experience.
Of course, this also means that “VR for everyone” (as was more or less the plan for the Rift to begin with) is now really “VR for those who can afford it”. 2016 is going to be an interesting year for virtual reality, but it’s definitely not going to be a year for mainstream virtual reality.