Oculus Rift boss: ‘shipping a consumer product is more complex than janking out a dev kit’

Lucky for some

Oculus Rift boss Palmer Luckey has apologised for suggesting that the VR product would cost “in the ballpark” of $350, admitting that he “handled the messaging poorly.”

Responding to comments on a lengthy reddit AMA thread from commenters who suggested early reports of a $350 pricetag were misleading, Luckey said “to be perfectly honest, our biggest failing was assuming we had been clear enough about setting expectations”..

“As an explanation, not an excuse: during that time, many outlets were repeating the ‘Rift is $1500!’ line, and I was frustrated by how many people thought that was the price of the headset itself. My answer was ill-prepared, and mentally, I was contrasting $349 with $1500, not our internal estimate that hovered close to $599 – that is why I said it was in roughly the same ballpark.”

“Another problem is that people looked at the much less advanced technology in DK2 for $350 and assumed the consumer Rift would cost a similar amount, an assumption that myself (and Oculus) did not do a good job of fixing. I apologize.”

So just why will the retail unit cost so much more than originally anticipated?

“Shipping a real consumer product is more complex than janking out a dev kit, even something nearly identical to DK2 would have ended up costing $400+, and the all-in investment including a PC would still be around $1300, not enough to make the jump from enthusiast to mainstream.”

“DK1 and DK2 cost a lot less – they used mostly off the shelf components,” Luckey added. “They also had significantly fewer features (back of head tracking, headphones, mic, removal facial interfaces, etc.) For Rift, we’re using largely custom VR technology (eg. custom displays designed for VR) to push the experience well beyond DK2 to the Crescent Bay level.”

“We could have shipped something along the lines of DK2, but I really don’t think it would have been good enough to kickstart the consumer VR industry, especially in the long run.”

Although Luckey insists the Rift is sold at cost price and not for a profit, he did acknowledge that the accompanying hardware was expensive. 

“The core technology in the Rift is the main driver – two built-for-VR OLED displays with very high refresh rate and pixel density, a very precise tracking system, mechanical adjustment systems that must be lightweight, durable, and precise, and cutting-edge optics that are more complex to manufacture than many high end DSLR lenses.

“It is expensive, but for the $599 you spend, you get a lot more than spending $599 on pretty much any other consumer electronics devices – phones that cost $599 cost a fraction of that to make, same with mid-range TVs that cost $599. There are a lot of mainstream devices in that price-range, so as you have said, our failing was in communication, not just price.”

“For the average person, the PC is by far the biggest cost, not the headset – the end goal is to make sure people can use the PC they already have in most cases,” he added.

Looks like the price hasn’t made much of a dent on pre-orders — all initial “day one” stock has been claimed, apparently selling out in 14 minutes. Further units for sale are now pushed back to May 2016.

For more information check out the full AMA and, as always, let us know what you think about the price — and Luckey’s subsequent comments — below!

About The Author
Vikki Blake
More Stories by Vikki Blake