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The Oculus Rift May Have Been Cheaper If Gear VR Didn’t Exist Says Luckey

The Oculus Rift pre-orders have been open for well over a day now and seem to be performing well, with shipments of the virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) now pushed back from the 28th March start date all the way to June 2016. Despite this, there are still plenty of people upset about the $599 USD price tag, which the company has spent much of the past 24 hours trying to justify. We’ve already heard that the consumer Oculus Rift could have been a different, cheaper product, but now it’s come out that there’s another reason the kit’s price is what it is: the Gear VR.

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According to Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey, the company ‘probably would have approached’ the ‘quality over cost’ decision made for the Oculus Rift differently if its mobile HMD, made in partnership with Samsung, wasn’t a factor. “We optimized for quality over cost,” he told IGN today. “We probably would have approached it differently if we didn’t have Gear VR but we wanted to make the Rift the best thing you could buy. Even if we chose inferior materials, you would still need a high-end PC to run it, and it wouldn’t reduce cost most.”

Gear VR costs just $99 and runs with one of Samsung’s 2015 smartphones whereas the Oculus Rift uses a more expensive PC. Said smartphones are still far from cheap, but it’s hard to deny that Gear VR has a much lower all in cost than Oculus Rift. The trade-off is that Gear VR can’t power the same scale of experiences seen on the Oculus Rift, and doesn’t support positional tracking.

If anything, this is a sign of how seriously Oculus VR is approaching the Gear VR; not as a novel concept akin to the Google Cardboard but instead a genuine alternative to the Oculus Rift and a viable platform for serious investment. In fact, yesterday saw the company’s Jason Rubin even label the device as ‘the answer‘ to more price-conscious consumers looking to get in to VR.

“It sounds kinda douchey, but for what’s in [the Rift], it’s a good deal,” Luckey later added. “There are multiple OLED displays that are optimized for VR with very high pixel density. There’s a great motion sensor, great audio, transforming fabric. It’s kind of like a combination of a high-end phone, gaming console, and a leather jacket. And we talked about how we’re not making money on the hardware.”

Check back with VRFocus for the latest updates on both the Gear VR and Oculus Rift.

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  1. What? This didn’t explain how the Gear VR drove the cost up (supposedly). “We probably would have approached it differently if we didn’t have Gear VR” – what? Why?

    1. I take it to mean that with the Gear VR, there is an “entry model,” a $100-200 peripheral to a $600-700 phone, so they could focus on a higher spec model, a $600 peripheral to a ~$1000 PC. Without the Gear VR, their target price would probably have been lower, potentially at the cost of the quality of the experience. If they really aren’t making a profit on hardware (which may depend on early costs of the OLED screens; by the time these are actually in people’s hands and torn down by enthusiast sites to evaluate the cost of the unit, the components could come down in cost significantly by then) a lower price point could mean lower spec screens from an earlier development cycle, slower communication for sensors, anything that could lead to the first impression of the consumer Rift being less impressive. Since they have a product in a lower price range, they designed for a different price range.

  2. Well, for gamers that might work. But what I want is mobility. I travel a lot and don’t carry a PC with me at all times. I carry my smartphone most of times so that is the only thing that I can count with.

    In addition, I like sitting on the living room and watch media including Netflix, Facebook and YouTube. I don’t have a PC there.

    I think that if smartphones improve the hardware, in time they are a much better choice in most cases. I’m not really a gamer but I love using VR for media consumption.

    The Samsung Gear seems like a promising device and started really well for a 1st generation device. The quality of the image is not great though and the phone heats up quite a bit unless you enable fly mode and disable wireless. This helps slightly.

    Either cases, I think that we require a mobile and gamers VR. Glad that both are available. I’ll take the mobile one.

    Cheers

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