The Oculus Rift is available for pre-order now for $599, and that's not exactly an impulse purchase, but the real expense comes from the high-end PC needed to run the hardware.
“For most people it’s not a $599 headset, the real cost for a normie is this high-end PC," Oculus founder Palmer Luckey told Polygon.
This is why Luckey claims that the price of the Rift itself may not be the limiting factor for sales in the first year. Until you can get the cost of the PC down, it's never going to be a mainstream product.
“The big investment is the PC, if we could sell a Rift for $300 I’m not sure the adoption would actually be much higher," Luckey said. "I know it would be higher, I’m not going to argue that more people wouldn’t be buying it, but it’s not going to get you from enthusiast market to mainstream if you still need a high-end PC.”
The Rift may require an expensive PC now, but that spec will be locked down for the lifetime of the first consumer version of the hardware. So if you start without owning a PC you'll be able to get a brand-new system that can run it and the Rift itself for $1,500, but the cost of that system will decrease in time, and hopefully the cost of the Rift will do the same. But the cost of the PC far outstrips the cost of the RIft itself, and that's another place the price needs to come down on the road to mainstream acceptance.
“The real goal is that you go to Best Buy, you buy the back to school special laptop for $399 and that’s able to run VR," Luckey explained. "We’re a ways away from that, but that’s the inflection point where it becomes something everyone can use.”