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The RPG Files: Oculus Rift is Overpriced and In Trouble

Columns By Christopher Coke on January 08, 2016

Oculus Rift is Overpriced and In Trouble

Since Oculus Rift’s 2012 Kickstarter, gamers have latched onto the dream of in-home virtual reality. Finally, that dream goes, technology has caught up with science fiction. Oculus began a groundswell of VR fervor, with Sony, Samsung, and Valve quick to follow, stirring up gamers like a horde of excited bees. This week, Oculus opened pre-orders and revealed what seemed to be their most closely guarded secret: their price tag. And they were right too, because they’re out of their minds.

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In case you missed it, the Oculus Rift will come to market with the whopping price tag of $599. Let that sink in. The Rift, a peripheral -- a game changing, best-in-class peripheral  -- will cost as much as a moderate gaming PC; not considering that it will still need a beefy gaming PC to do much of anything. The minimum system requirements are:

  • NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater.
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater.
  • 8GB+ RAM.
  • Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output.
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports.
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer.

Many gamers are looking at a video card or CPU upgrade just to use the unit, which adds another $199 - $299, or even more, depending on your upgrade needs.

That’s not surprising considering NVidia’s claim that VR games require seven times the processing power of non-VR games. To run smoothly and not elicit motion sickness, the Rift requires a combined 3024x1680 resolution and 90FPS  between both eyes, so no one is saying that the price tag is particularly unreasonable. It’s just that kind of performance is out of many, if not most, people’s hands. More, anyhow, than is any good for the Oculus Rift. Add a video card on top of that headset and you’re looking at an $800 buy-in. Ouch.

The thing is, word of mouth has done such a good job of playing up how incredible VR is, I would love to own one. But without the ability to try it for myself, there is no way I’ll buy in at this point (remember, some people can’t get over the motion sickness). Instead, I’ll start looking at other options, like the cheaper Gear VR, which uses new Galaxy phones for its processing or, better, Sony’s PlayStation VR. Valve and HTC’s Vive is likely to be expensive too, but if it’s any cheaper, the Oculus will look worse by comparison. We don’t have prices on anything but the Gear VR yet ($99), but my money's on Sony. Pundits are ballparking the $300 range on that one.

All of this underlines a troubling fact: VR is far too expensive to succeed outside of the hardcore market. The average gamer probably hasn’t heard of the Oculus, and if they have, they’ll scoff at paying $600 sight unseen. Or maybe you just don’t have matching technology. No new Galaxy phone, no Playstation 4, no new video card/CPU combo. You’re looking at $600+ no matter what.

We laughed when Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3 for “six hundred U.S. dollars.” The Oculus is cool enough that we’ll walk away quietly, waiting for a price drop or straight into their competitors arms.

That competition, well, it’s got its own problems. The Gear VR is more limited and kneecapped by the technology in your phone. And the PlayStation… would you bet $300+ Sony won’t abandon it like the Move, Vita, or PlayStation Eye? They don’t have a great track record of supporting their peripherals. And the Vive, we don’t know if it really is a viable alternative until the details come out.

I believe that Virtual Reality will become A Thing. It will be the game-changer everyone says it is, and when we can all try it, most of us will be happy converts, preaching the VR gospel. But until they can find a way to sell these devices at reasonable costs, it’s just not going to take off. Two years from now, this may be a whole different conversation. I hope so.

Quick Hits

On the plus side, if you were an original Kickstarter backer and received your Dev Kit 1, Oculus will be sending you the retail unit for free. That is a classy move that deserves props. Good on them.

Torment: Tides of Numenera will be opening up its backer beta on Sunday, January 17th. The beta will be limited to the first sequence and major location in the game, the Sagus Cliffs. Having never played the original, I am deeply compelled by the creepiness of Torment. Tell me, reader, does it deliver?

Final Fantasy XV is COMING. In honor of the new year and hopes for future sales, Hajime Tabata shared a short letter on the personal site, affirming the team’s dedication to releasing the game in 2016. “Previous phases required wisdom and strength” he writes, “moving forward the final phase will focus on effort and willpower.” This is a man who has worked with stats.

Speaking to The Examiner, Tabata also compared the game’s storytelling to that of The Last of Us in how gameplay should play an important role in story delivery. It’s an odd comparison to make, an he seems to know it, as he quickly qualifies the differences required for the RPG genre: “you have a lot deeper, heavy and full story that shows the development of characters along a more broad angle.”

Pillars of Eternity: The White March - Part 2 is receiving a slight delay, moving from “late January” to February 16th.

Finally, play how you want to play! A clever Witcher 3 modder has unlocked the ability to play as Triss, Yennefer, or Ciri. You’re stuck moving like Geralt, though. Seriously, CD Projekt. Where are the actual mod tools?

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.