Finally getting out of development mode –sort of — the Oculus Rift now has a price tag. At $599 you will be able to get yourself the Virtual Reality gaming headset. It’s hundreds of dollars more than an actual gaming console, and twice as much as the original development kit. Another donwside is that it also requires a powerful computer to run — maybe $1,000 if you build it yourself. It’s a gamer’s device.
The Oculus Rift’s price certainly isn’t odd; Oculus is trying to set the bar for virtual reality. But asking why people with expensive computers are upset about paying a bit more misses the point: that the Oculus Rift started out as VR’s great democratizer. But the company has competition coming its way, the Rift has been joined by even cheaper and more accessible headsets that run on something even more ubiquitous than computers: smartphones. 360-degree video experiments live on Google Cardboard. Puzzle games flourish on the Gear VR. As mobile headsets have flourished, the Rift has slowly turned into a testing ground for high-end experiences, pushing the technological envelope with motion trackers and hyper-realistic graphics. It’s the symbol of aspirational VR, not VR for everyone. Many of its original fans, unless they ordered a development kit during the Kickstarter campaign, won’t be able to participate in its launch.