scroll down

Oculus Rift Allowing HTC Vive to Take Lead Could be a Mistake

Yesterday saw the Oculus company announce the consumer model for its Oculus virtual reality headset for a release in early 2016.

The presentation was extensive and had CEO Brendan Iribe talk about the accessories that will accompany the device, the controllers involved, and the features to be expected.

Two things, though, were left out of the event and which had me surprised. The pricing model was not touched upon. Oculus has always been vague about such matters throughout its history, even after its acquisition by Facebook.

The folks have seemingly been more interested in perfecting their product than in petty PR statements. However, it was strange to me that even with six months down before the official launch, the price of the Oculus Rift remains to be revealed.

Secondly, why a late release? In March, during the Facebook’s F8 conference in San Francisco, it was stated that a consumer model would arrive before the end of 2015.

A couple of months later, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey reiterated that statement. Based on several expansions to the Oculus Rift’s roadmap, Luckey suggested that a release within 2015 would be unlikely.

Coincidentally, this statement came just two weeks after the announcement of HTC Vive, the collaborative effort between the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer and Valve.

The HTC Vive virtual reality headset is pegged for a release later this year, speculated to be in November, and alongside the Steam Machines. This makes Steam’s VR device the first of many to hit the market.

Would it be wrong to say that Oculus is playing it safe? That the company wants to first determine the price at which the HTC Vive will launch and how its reception is. Technology releases are seldom without hiccups, and it would give the Oculus Rift enough time to tweak itself based on that feedback.

Currently, the price of the HTC Vive remains to be confirmed. However, in this interview with MVC, HTC’s Jeff Gattiss confirmed that it would have a “slightly higher price point” to deliver a “premium experience.”

Speculation puts the price to be anywhere between $200 – $500. While the Oculus Rift is expected to be cheaper, a wrong price tag would prove bothersome.

Going back by a few months, the Oculus Rift was VR. The immense popularity it had garnered had already set the device on a fabulously put stage. The confidence that surrounded the company was largely looked at as a driving force that would mow down competition.

However, with yesterday’s presentation, it’s evident that Oculus is fine with taking its time. It’s not interested in diving headfirst with HTC Vive and taking advantage of its following. It is more interested in learning from the market’s reaction to HTC’s price and launch.

The attitude is a risky one. With such a revolutionary technology, you can bet that every enthusiast will be looking to buy the product as soon as it hits the market. The question of the quality and number of games accompanying it will not have any effect on purchasing decisions.

With HTC Vive the first VR device to hit the market, that gives the company an excellent opportunity to take advantage of all that hype which had been created over the years, courtesy of Oculus.

I would have expected Oculus to make use of that, but the company is fine in letting HTC take the lead and fight for that market share later on. Time will tell whether this approach backfires in the face of Oculus.