Alienware will “invest” in making virtual reality a hit when it launches on the PC later this year by bundling the Oculus Rift with older PC hardware at a discounted price, a Dell executive said.
Frank Azor, cofounder of Alienware and an executive at Dell, said at a dinner that Alienware will bundle the Rift virtual reality headset with an Area 51 gamer PC for $1,600. That means it will bundle a $1,000 computer with a $600 VR headset. That’s less than you might expect for the hardware, he said.
“We believe in this and want to make it a success,” Azor said.
Alienware will also sell machines that cost more than that. But Azor said that the low-end $1,000 gamer PC will likely pass certification as being able to run VR properly.
Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR, spoke along with Azor at a press dinner at the 2016 International CES, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.
“Virtual reality is at its infancy,” Luckey said. “Virtual reality is going to be going very fast over the next year and the next decade.”
Luckey had to apologize for saying the newly announced price for the Rift, which goes on sale formally on March 28, was “cheap,” even though at $600 it costs more than Oculus originally expected.
There are huge functional problems to overcome. Nvidia said that VR takes seven times more graphics processing power than a typical PC game. Luckey said it was demanding because the graphics card has to render a 3D image for each eye and run it at 90 frames per second. Any slower, and the experience could make people motion sick.
“All of a sudden, a huge number of people are going to want a high end PC,” Luckey said.
And that’s going to be good for Dell and its Alienware division. Over time, the costs for the Rift and gamer PCs that can run VR will drop. Azor said that eventually every Alienware machine would be able to run VR.
“That’s going to be huge when PCs will be built to meet these specifications,” Luckey said.
Azor said that when he first tried out the Rift, his question to Oculus was how Alienware/Dell could help make it a success.
The answer was to invest to make this accessible to as many people in the world as you can. Azor said. Luckey said that Oculus VR didn’t really understand the full costs when it predicted that, all in, costs of a PC and a Rift would be around $1,500. When the costs came out higher than that, Oculus was surprised.
“To [Dell’s] credit, you have been able to push down the pricing more than we thought,” Azor said.
Luckey said that he was inspired by science fiction to create the Rift, but he also credited the work of all those who worked on VR before he undertook the creation of the Rift.