Facebook Just Cut the Price Of Its Virtual Reality Headset
Facebook is dropping the price of its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
The social networking giant said Wednesday that its VR device, which debuted last spring, would now sell for $500 instead of its original $600 price. Facebook fb also said it had halved the price of the Rift headset’s accompanying Touch motion controllers from $200 to $100.
The company’s decision to lower the cost of Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch is noteworthy, considering the perception that the high price of headsets is one reason consumers have yet to take to VR en masse. The HTC Vive, for example, sells for $800 with controllers, while Sony’s Playstation VR headset costs $400 and does not include controllers. It should be noted that even with the price drop, people should expect to pay over $1,000 for both the Rift, controllers, and a computer with the minimum requirements to power the headset.
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Oculus co-founder and head of Rift Nate Mitchell told Fortune that the reason for the price drop involved unspecified “improvements” Facebook has apparently made in the manufacturing of the device.
While Mitchell said that the Rift’s “component prices are coming down,” he declined to elaborate on what those components were and how exactly Facebook had managed to lower the cost of building its headsets.
Mitchell reiterated Facebook’s fb pitch that the company is “not in this to make money on the hardware,” but rather wants to jumpstart the VR industry through its Rift headset and related Oculus software.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that he believes VR is the next big computing platform that he envisions as the future of online interactions.
Still, Facebook isn’t giving away the Rift for free.
“We also don’t want to be losing too much money on this,” said Mitchell. “We want this to be a sustainable business.”
Facebook, like HTC, has not disclosed how many headsets the company has sold, although several analyst firms like SuperData Research have estimated the number at about 355,000 headsets in 2016. Sony said this week that it had sold nearly 1 million of its PlayStation VR headsets since debuting the product in the fall.
And unlike the Vive and the Rift, the PlayStation VR requires its users to own a PlayStation 4 video game console rather than a computer, which costs a minimum of around $500.
“Those are great numbers for them,” Mitchell said regarding Sony’s sales figures. “It basically really demonstrates that there is a high-end market for VR. People are super excited about it.”
But just because Sony has revealed how many headsets it’s sold doesn’t mean we should expect Facebook to anytime soon.
“We don’t share sales figures on hardware or software,” said Mitchell.
In his view, the next big phase for Oculus will be to encourage developers to build high-quality VR games and software that will lead to more people buying the Rift headset.
It’s a big task, considering that several analysts have said that there has yet to be a so-called killer app available that would entice consumers to buy both a headset and a beefy computer.
Even Valve CEO Gabe Newell, whose company makes the software that powers the HTC Vive, has acknowledged the lack of good virtual reality content available. Newell recently told reporters that he “can’t point to a single piece of content that would cause millions of people to justify changing their home computing.”
To help spur more VR content, Facebook has given developers and game publishers hundreds of millions of dollars to build high-quality VR software.
Mitchell reiterated Zuckerberg’s recent comments that Facebook doesn’t plan to stop spending billions of dollars on VR, despite current mainstream consumers’ relative lack of enthusiasm for the technology.
“We’re committed to funding a tremendous amount of content,” said Mitchell.
The Oculus executive conceded that when the Rift first debuted, there was a lack of compelling VR media available. But he said that efforts by Facebook to fund various projects has led to an increase in better content.
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However, it’s unclear whether the increase of available VR media since the Rift’s initial introduction has greatly boosted sales.
“I don’t have stats to share offhand,” Mitchell said, when asked if Oculus is currently selling more Rifts than it did when it debuted with a more limited supply of VR media.