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Oculus Rift $200 price cut is great news for mainstream VR, will put pressure on Vive

The Rift puts itself in a great position to sell a lot more hardware

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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wearing an Oculus Rift Oculus/Facebook

We still don’t know how many Rifts Oculus has sold to the public, and that’s kind of astounding for a system that was released early last year. But today’s massive $200 price drop on the hardware bundle will go a long way towards making the Rift an appealing purchase for a more mainstream audience.

Offering the Rift with Touch controllers for $598 does many things at once: The Touch controllers are now closer to becoming standard issue, which means that the market will be less split moving forward. You can still buy just the Rift for $499 if you’d like, but we’d argue against it; the Rift becomes a complete platform with the Touch controllers. Without motion controls it feels more like a fancy display than true VR.

It won’t be long until more players have the Touch controllers than those who don’t, especially since the controllers themselves have also seen a $100 price drop; you can now pick up a set for $99 if you already own a Rift.

This also puts the standard bundle in hardware parity with the HTC Vive, while being able to play almost all Vive games. Also, and this is a pretty big also, the Rift is now $200 less expensive than the $799 HTC Vive, even with the Touch controllers included. That’s a substantial advantage as the hardware struggles to expand its reach outside of existing VR enthusiasts.

Oculus seems to agree.

“We’ve given hundreds of thousands of demos, and at the end of every demo we give out a survey,” Jason Rubin, VP of content at Oculus, told Polygon in an interview this week. “All the surveys say ‘This is awesome. I want to buy VR.’ The vast majority of people are blown away; those that don’t buy, the number one reason they don’t buy is price.

“By dropping the price we think we aggressively push VR forward.”

If you want to move into room-scale VR by adding a third sensor, that accessory is now only $59, down from $79. You can pick up a Rift with Touch controllers and a third sensor for better coverage and still be spending substantially less than you would on a Vive. I’m currently using a three-sensor setup in my own VR room, and a surprising number of games support the option, allowing you to spin around 360 degrees without losing any tracking.

It doesn’t hurt that the excellent Robo Recall is also launching today. It’s one of the best games in VR, full stop, and is completely free for Rift owners.

So what does this all mean?

It means that, despite recent legal losses, Oculus is in a great position to sell a lot more hardware. Sony has announced that it has sold a little under one million PlayStation VR units, and it’s unlikely that any of the other tethered headsets are going to catch up to that number any time soon, but this gives the Rift all the ammo it needs to handily outsell the Vive.

That is, at least, as long as the HTC Vive doesn’t see its own price drop in the coming days, which would be the best possible news for early adopters who want to see the market for software thrive and attract more developers or prospective buyers who are looking for a hard choice between two attractive platforms.

HTC’s recent hardware improvements to the Vive are nice, but we’re only going to see real movement in sales as the prices come down, and a $200 price drop on the new Rift bundle — along with a $100 price drop on the controllers and a $20 price drop on extra sensors — is going to put pressure on everyone else to stay competitive on price.

That’s good news for everyone involved, no matter which platform you are thinking of picking up. And who knows? Oculus may even announce how many of these things it has sold since launch. Stranger things have happened.

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