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In July, there was a single week when Facebook’s Oculus cut prices for its Rift VR headset and Touch controller to $400 for a limited time, a rumor suggested a $200 standalone Oculus VR headset was coming next year, and the company made the aforementioned two-product bundle permanent, promising to make $500 the regular price once the deal was over. At the time, I declared Facebook wanted to start a VR price war. In August, HTC cut the Vive price to $600, at which point I screamed “Called it!” in our virtual newsroom.
This week at Oculus Connect 4, we learned Facebook was just getting started.
Three months after starting its price war, the company is already adding fuel to the fire. The Oculus Rift VR headset and Touch controller bundle is now priced at $400, no longer for a limited time. Oculus unveiled plans to sell $900 VR bundles directly to businesses. Oh, and that rumor? It’s true — Facebook unveiled the Oculus Go, the most affordable standalone headset yet at just $200.
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Fraction? Yes, fraction.
Sure, the Oculus Rift now costs $400. But that doesn’t include the cost of a high-end PC.
Sure, the Gear VR is $100. But that doesn’t include the cost of a flagship smartphone.
To be fair, the new product isn’t here yet. We don’t know enough about the device. Nobody outside of Facebook has tried it.
Put another way, Oculus Go still has plenty of time to be a flop.
But that’s not the part that matters. The bigger picture here is the product lineup Oculus is putting together — it’s extremely aggressive.
The lineup is headed in a clear direction: affordable, wireless, and standalone. Not requiring a PC or a smartphone doesn’t just mean you only need to buy one device, it also means you can just put on the headset and go. There’s nothing to set up.
Facebook is pushing the envelope, and if the rest of the industry wants to compete, they’re going to have to a) catch up and b) price accordingly. Everyone knows that VR and AR headsets can’t become mainstream if they’re expensive and take time to set up. Facebook just wants to speed up the process.
I can’t in good faith recommend a Samsung Gear VR or a Google Daydream View right now. Doing a comparison between all the mobile VR headsets and telling readers which is the best option seems pointless.
There’s a $200 one coming early next year. Wait for that.
I would want to say that HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Windows Mixed Reality, and Oculus Rift devices deserve your attention because, at least, they’re more powerful. But even those seem like a poor use of your money given what we know about Project Santa Cruz.
If the main disadvantage of being a tech giant is that you’re too big to move quickly, the greatest advantage is that you have deep pockets. Oculus within Facebook, at least from the outside, appears to be successfully setting up the startup-within-corporation structure that all tech giants desperately try to recreate.
Facebook is cannibalizing Oculus’ lineup. The company is moving very quickly, and there’s a big risk there. After all, I basically just told you shouldn’t buy a VR device this year, because what’s coming next is much more interesting.
But Facebook is betting this the way to go if it’s going to lead the VR space. It doesn’t want to leave room for a nimble startup to swoop in and steal the show. You can’t dominate a category if you’re standing still.
And you certainly can’t reach 1 billion people in VR by standing still.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.
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