As lots of sci-fi has continued to teach us, the future of technology is expensive - not to mention shiny - and the virtual reality revolution is no different. Speaking to MCV, HTC marketing manager Jeff Gattis has confirmed that the Vive headset that HTC is working on with Valve will be a “premium experience.”
And, understandably, that comes with a price tag to match. “Starting with the premium experience, even if it has a slightly higher price point, is the right thing to do from a strategic point of view,” says Gatiss. “The price can always come down as the market grows...To get the broader consumer adoption we’re all hoping for, the industry will have to drive price down to make it more accessible.”
The issue we now face is that despite the future having all manner of ways for us to get our heads in the game we will probably only want to pick one VR solution. It just won’t be feasible for the majority of people to pick up an HTC Vive, PlayStation’s Morpheus headset, and the Oculus Rift. A big part of that selection process is going to come down to the price.
The Vive was a favourite at GDC for its non-motion sickness inducing ways and ultra low lag, and it obviously has the clout of Valve and Steam behind it to push it into homes. Vive also has the benefit of being potentially the first consumer VR headset to hit shelves later this year. Being the only available option to sneak under gamer’s Christmas trees might just be enough for people to invest in that premium price point.
Yet Sony’s Project Morpheus was also a major hit at GDC and crucially only requires the best-selling console of this generation to function. It remains to be seen if the virtual reality peripheral will be the same price as that console but at least Sony has implemented existing tech into proceedings meaning that you can use your Move controllers with no need to invest in further accessories. You do have those...right?
Oculus Rift, now rumoured to have a 2016 release date, seems to be lagging (that pun just hertz) behind slightly but promises an even better experience than its updated HD Crescent Bay prototype. The second dev kits currently cost around $350 to buy but last year Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg promised that it would be as affordable as possible and mentioned figures around $200.
The VR race is clearly on and HTC isn’t afraid to admit it will be expensive ride. As we hear more about the Sony and Oculus offerings and their associated prices over the next few months, it will be interesting to see how they stack up. It’s going to be an exciting time for the industry, if not for the money in our wallets.