Oculus Rift's $1,500 total cost: Digging into the truth behind the insane number
Just as the fervor over VR finally started hitting a fever pitch, Oculus VR finally began releasing information about the release of the consumer edition of its hotly anticipated Oculus Rift, the VR headset that kickstarted the virtual reality craze. Earlier this month, a launch window was announced: early 2016. Yay! The next hot question: How much will the Rift cost?
Late Wednesday night, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe provided an answer—kind of—in the most roundabout, obtuse, downright silly way possible. Speaking at Re/code’s Code Conference, Iribe revealed not the price of the Rift itself, but that the headset and a PC powerful enough to run it will cost a cool $1,500.
Come on, Brendan. Really? That’s the price you want in people’s heads when you’re trying to establish a revolutionary, completely new product category?
Before you knew it, headlines like “A complete Oculus Rift setup won’t cost more than $1,500” began to pop up, and mainstream publication USA Today ran a piece titled “Oculus to sell Rift package for $1,500.”
We have to dig into this, folks.
Breaking down the Oculus Rift’s price
First things first, before we dive into the nitty-gritty: The Oculus Rift has always been positioned as a gaming device, even after Facebook bought the company. Sure, there are an endless number of nifty non-gaming uses for VR, but the vast majority of the first wave of Oculus Rift buyers will no doubt be PC gamers looking for a thrilling new experience. (And it is indeed thrilling.)
You know what PC gamers already have? Powerful gaming PCs. So Iribe’s $1,500 figure is pointless to the Rift’s core audience, and only serves to turn off normal people who only ever hear about VR headsets when crazy $1,500 price points make headlines in the big papers.
So how much will the Oculus Rift itself wind up retailing for? Between Iribe’s $1,500 bomb (UGH) and the Rift’s minimum recommended PC specifications, it’s possible to come up with a rough estimate. Here are the officially required specs, along with the rough price of each component:
- Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater - $330
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater - $200
- 8GB+ RAM - $60
- Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output - on video card
- 2x USB 3.0 ports - on motherboard
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer - $100
Of course, you need more than that to build a functional computer. Here’s everything else you’d have to buy, with a reasonable, price-conscious estimate for each component. (No eye-wateringly fast Intel 750 series SSD for you!)
- Motherboard - $100
- Case - $60
- Storage - $100
- Monitor - $150
- Keyboard and mouse - $50 (I know, I know. But remember, I’m keeping it cheap here, gamers.)
- 550 watt power supply that’s actually worth buying - $50
Add it all up, and you’ve got a grand total of $1,200. Depending on the exact component configuration and what deals are available the day you’re looking to buy, that could sway a bit in either direction, but $1,200 is a solid, realistic estimate for a PC powerful enough to run the Rift.
Reading between that lines, that suggests that the VR headset itself will likely cost between $200 and $400. And what do you know? That jibes completely with the launch price that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey previously said the company was targeting.
“That could slide in either direction depending on scale, pre-orders, the components we end up using, business negotiations…” he said. “Whatever it is, it’s going to be as cheap as possible.”
So the Rift itself won’t cost more than a smartwatch. That’s great! Wonderful to hear! It’s too bad that Joe and Jane Everyman will have that ghastly $1,500 price stuck inside their brain now.
Rather than ranting further, I’ll let game developer Rami Ismail have the last word on the pricing that should have been teased for the revolutionary device:
(If you want to convince people VR is affordable, say "$300 and a high-end computer". Enough people won't read past the number.)— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) May 28, 2015