In the wake of Oculus’ decision to cut the price of the Oculus Rift with controllers to $400, there’s been some worry that this move indicates a major new platform update is imminent. It’s not a crazy idea — plenty of companies, from car dealerships to CPU and sometimes even GPU manufacturers will cut prices to clear inventory and make room for upcoming models. In Oculus’ case, however, that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.
Now, Facebook executives threw cold water on the idea of an upcoming new product generation from multiple angles. In an interview with CNET, Facebook’s Jason Rubin, head of content and marketing for Oculus VR as well as being the creator of both Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series, stated: “Someone who buys a Rift today has years of enjoyment in front of them.”
While Nate Mitchell (co-founder of Oculus) and Rubin gave neither Rift sales figures nor a launch date for a future Oculus Rift 2.0, they stated they believed the current unit is more than enough to drive VR into the true mainstream. They also talked about having more channels available to players to help them find people to game with, though that appears to be something the team has discussed as opposed to starting to implement.
Last week, Facebook stated that after the Summer of Rift sale ends, the Rift will get another price cut, this time permanently, to $499. The new bundle won’t include an Xbox controller, but packs Oculus’ Touch controllers instead.
The strongest evidence that Rift won’t get an update soon came during a conversation about eye tracking, wireless gear, and other ideas that might help take VR into the mainstream market. Asked about when we might see cutting-edge technology integrated into the existing Rift or specified for Rift 2.0, Rubin stated:
Rift does not have eye-tracking. Rift might add some sort of wireless that can be a peripheral. Eye-tracking is more fundamental, as would be inside-out tracking, because Rift doesn’t have a camera system inside. So if Rift is going to be around for a while, that tells you something about how long we feel it’s going to take for those things to become integrated and part of a full release.
I want to be clear: we are dropping the price to get more people in Rifts because we expect the next years to be very Rift-focused and Rift-centric.
To answer your question about all these other technologies: People should not hold their breath and wait, it’s not coming in a minute.
We should be able to see whether the Summer of Rift kicked off a buying bonanza as soon as Steam Hardware Survey data is available for July. In the meantime, you still have a few weeks to pick up the Rift for $400, but it’ll still be available for $500 (as opposed to $800 six months ago) if you can’t quite save enough to hit that window.
It’ll be very interesting to see if HTC’s Vive follows this pattern. If Oculus plans to keep a $500 price point with its existing technology, there may be room for a Vive 2 with upgraded visual capabilities and better controls — provided Vive can deliver them for something less than $800. When Vive was $800 and Oculus was $600 but lacked handheld controllers, a number of reviewers argued for the Vive for that reason alone. Now that the Rift is $400 ($500 in a few weeks) with touch controllers, while the HTC Vive is still $800, HTC has effectively lost the advantage it had. If it doesn’t cut prices or release a dramatically improved system soon, it won’t stay in the pole position of VR adoption.
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Oculus Touch controllers.
Now, are these comments proof that there’s no Rift refresh coming? Of course not. This would scarcely be the first time a company has promised one thing but done another. But on balance, it seems Rubin and Mitchell are being honest on this one. The last year did a lot of damage to Oculus’ reputation, some deserved, some not. Either way, the worst thing Facebook could do is launch a new headset when people so recently spent $400 to $800 on a new one.
Getting VR systems into more homes, by lowering the cost and barriers to entry, is far more important than updating the specs and raising the price on hardware that only a fraction of a percent of gamers own. Once VR headsets hit $200, with accompanying GPUs driving them at the same price point, we’ll start to see a lot more movement towards VR. At least, we’ll find out if price drops are the right impetus to encourage people to hop over the other barriers to entry and buy into the VR ecosystem.