Oculus Hoping Free Rift Becomes (Non-Virtual) Reality

By Nathan Grayson on July 16th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Someday all humans will look like this.

Eventually, virtual reality might actually become even better than plain old, crusty dusty regular reality, but that day is still quite a ways off. Problems range from motion sickness to a jarring inability to put saddles on ant lions and feed them apples while telling them all of our secrets, but mainly there is the issue of money. Reality – minus taxes, living expenses, and everything else you’ll ever work to earn in your entire life – is free. Oculus Rift, meanwhile, will probably run you somewhere in the realm of $300. Actually, you know what? Maybe virtual reality is already better. But even so, the mighty void conjurers at Oculus want to take price tags out of the equation entirely.

Speaking with Edge during Develop, CEO Brendan Iribe explained:

“The lower the price point, the wider the audience. We have all kinds of fantasy ideas. We’d love it to be free one day, so how do we get it as close to free as possible? Obviously it won’t be that in the beginning. We’re targeting the $300 price point right now but there’s the potential that it could get much less expensive with a few different relationships and strategies.”

“You can imagine if Microsoft and Sony can go out and subsidise consoles because there’s enough money to be made on software and other areas, then there’s the potential that this, in partnership, could get subsidised. Let’s say there was some game you played in VR that everybody loved and everybody played and we made $100 a month – or even $10 a month – at some point the hardware’s cheap enough and we’re making enough that we could be giving away the headset.”

The goal, then, is to ultimately give the gift of Oculus Rift away for free, and the company’s apparently thinking about the logistics “all the time”.

I certainly can’t complain about a company wanting to hand out a rather remarkable product for zero million moneydollars, but I do wonder how much this is an immediate aim versus a pie-in-the-furthest-reaches-of-space pipe dream. Time will tell. For now, though, I suggest more manageable short-term goals: for instance, subsidizing my plan to glue increasingly ridiculous mounds of googly eyes to the front of my friends’ Rifts and create the most successful YouTube channel of all time.

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66 Comments »

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  1. killerkerara says:

    The key word is in the second sentence there: “fantasy.”

  2. Premium User Badge

    Clavus says:

    This mainly illustrates the fact that they know how the VR revolution is to succeed: get it in every household as soon as possible. Having a dev kit, I can’t imagine this not being the kind of gear any core gamer wants to have in the next few years. It has the potential to change the gaming landscape drastically, and it probably will.

    Start saving folks.

    • vedder says:

      I already saved my 0€ for once it’s free.

      • jkz says:

        I’ve save up -$200 so still got a way to go.

      • AraxisHT says:

        Sorry, but you’ve got the dollars to euros conversion wrong. Free video games stuff in dollars is 5 euros.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      Not sure I’d want to describe myself as a “core gamer”, but I certainly don’t want an oculus rift, and haven’t seen any sort of 3D or VR tech that looks anything more than a gimmick.

      I’m sure it’s nice, and probably much better than nvidia’s 3D vision or whatever, but it really doesn’t impress me enough to want to use it.

      Besides, it’s surely only of benefit for first-person games, isn’t it?

      • Sic says:

        I’m sorry, but it doesn’t impress you? How on earth would you know if you haven’t tried it?

      • Premium User Badge

        Clavus says:

        Shush non-believer.

        I bet you $10 that you’ll eat those words after you tried the Rift.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nogo says:

        I’m worried about long time use. Seems like my eyes and neck will start hurting after about 10 min.

      • Lansevere says:

        @Andy_Panthro

        I understand your skepticism, but if you have any interest in Virtual Reality or its possibilities you have to open your mind.

        I’m going to make a quick reference to how computers evolved from vacuum tubes… ok right there all done with that reference…

        This may not be the most perfect VR peripheral ever, but I can’t remember a product that hit that deep into new territory without getting some legs, first. What the Oculus Rift prototype has done by simply placing it over the eyes is convince non-gaming middle-aged people’s brains that they are experiencing something different from what’s directly in front of them (ref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ARHWmliUPY) (ref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaYC-_a8qqQ)

        It’s incredibly easy to dismiss new [anything] without giving it a fair shake, and the very start of VR is going to have a lot of first-glance detractors like Andy that have a difficult time understanding this technology.

        Any VR enthusiast has no need to worry, though. Like thousands of other non-developer gamers I’ve also pre-ordered the Developer’s Kit just to experience it that much faster and have no regrets. Word of mouth and shared experiences are all this tech needs.

  3. Haplo says:

    I love his shirt.

    It’s so bad.

  4. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    F2P hardware is the next big thing. Just be prepared to pay $0.99 to activate the second screen for 48 hours.

    • Don Reba says:

      Occulus Rift — whale edition.

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        jezcentral says:

        Life is F2P. :)

        We even have the whales who spend tenmillions of moneydollars for cosmetic trinkets like impressionist paintings.

        Seriously, though, the important thing is open source. We need each VR headset to work with the same things. That said, Microsoft and Sony will only pony up for “free” units if the users get tied-in to buying MS and Sony products as a result.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      I just threw up a little.

  5. Premium User Badge

    P7uen says:

    Space pipe.

  6. Joey Viner says:

    MS should replace the bundled-Kinect with a bundled-Oculus Rift and finally win everyone back over to their side in the console war. Unless Sony does it first and still keeps it @ $400. That’d be funny.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Not if your a shareholder.

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      Cinek says:

      Not gonna happen. OR is useless for NSA, while Kinect is a closest thing to the ultimate surveillance tool. They’d do everything they can to encourage people buying it and forbidding microsoft from bundling any other products with Xbone.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        Only with rift….. they can read YOUR MIND.

        Muahahahaha….

      • iniudan says:

        What are you talking about with an Xbox One Oculus Rift, the NSA would be able to assemble a retinal scan database. =p

    • Jazzyboy says:

      But it’s already been mentioned by some journalists that Kinect has a lot of potential alongside the Occulus Rift.

      Full body control + Virtual Reality basically = Dream-like Gaming.

      • Entitled says:

        And dream-like bumping into walls.

        The Rift will be most practical with hydra-style motion controllers, where you can still move around with joysticks, and most immersive with omni treadmills, that are too large and expensive for mainstream use.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          In all actual facts, the omni treads are less immersive for most. As your walking, but getting no motion perception (not moving forward) from your inner ear. That’s jarring. No idea if it can be trained away as we do with other game play elements (pressing buttons to “jump” etc).

        • vecordae says:

          I’d actually settle for the OR + something like a leap motion. Since it tracks your hands in a way that means they can be rendered within the 3D space of the game, it’s not hard to imagine, say, a mech sim or racing game where you can interact with the in-cockpit virtual controls to make it go. The hydra is expensive and not nearly as elegant as simply moving your virtual hands to the virtual button by moving your real hands.

          No tactile feedback, mind, but I think that’s something we’re going to be getting used to either way.

    • Turkey says:

      Hey, Microsoft: It’s time to give a shit about PC gaming.

      No? Okay.

  7. Alex Ball says:

    I just wish they’d post me my rift! Bored of waiting now.

  8. mike2R says:

    Going to come down in price and maybe free soon, you say? Maybe I won’t buy it on release after all…

    I kid, as long as it lives up to the hype I’m getting one asap, but I’m not sure talking publcaly about how your product is going to be much cheaper down the road is hugely smart.

  9. Mr.Snowy says:

    Methinks they have taken Ready Player One too seriously!

  10. Premium User Badge

    Cinek says:

    How about the… MORE EXPENSIVE version? One with higher resolution screens than in standard consumer variant? And position sensors (so we could lean on a sides to see from beyond the obstacles)?

    They’ve been unable to release consumer version and already have a huge plans of conquering the world… how about making a first important step before planning anything “free” ?

    • Don Reba says:

      And position sensors (so we could lean on a sides to see from beyond the obstacles)?

      You can get position from acceleration, if the accelerometer is accurate enough. This is how inertial navigation systems in guided missiles work.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        Whatever. I don’t care which way they’ll achieve it – as long as a movements of my head are translated to the head movement of an in-game character. That’s one of the most essential things to decrease a level of confusion for a brain making this whole toy by far more usable.

        • Reapy says:

          Yes. The rift is useless until they get reliable position tracking in it, that should be number 1, else you are just going to make everybody sick and kill the momentum VR has going for it now.

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      Crimsoneer says:

      The consumer version will apparently be 1080p

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        yea… sounds impressive… until you realize Field of View OR will have.

    • Low Life says:

      Because only thinking 6-12 months forward is a great way to run a successful business.

      Also, they haven’t “been unable to release a consumer version”, as that would indicate that they were trying to have one released at this point.

    • Entitled says:

      The consumer version will have 1080p, and higher resolution mobile screens than that simply don’t exist right now.

      Maybe they will, by the time the 1080p screen drops in price enough that they can give the thing away for free, but even then, it’s not certain, after all mobile manufecturers have no reason to develop 4K mobile screens, and Oculus can’t fund it’s own screen development.

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        Cinek says:

        Yes, only I watch my mobile from ~50cm which gives somewhere between 18-15 degrees field of view. (18 deg. if you look up close). Now… Oculus Rift got field of view of… roughly 110 degrees? that’s over 6 times more!
        So to be comparable with smartphone it’d need to offer resolution that’s much higher than 4k to start with!
        But even going for 2-3k resolution would do for a beginning.

        • Entitled says:

          Yeah, but like I said, Oculus can’t invent it’s own screens. If mobile manufacturers have no reason to invest in it themselves, then no one will.

          Maybe several years from nov, when VR itself is a mainstream industry, Oculus and it’s competitors will fund their own hardware improvement, but for a long time, it has to exist as an externality of the mobile industry.

          • Premium User Badge

            Cinek says:

            Well… yes and no. VR goggles existed years before first color smartphones were released, so there’s no real correlation between these two.
            It just happened that for low-budget applications smartphone LCDs are a best way to go. But in no way it needs to be like that. Especially when it comes to high-end version.

        • Shuck says:

          “it’d need to offer resolution that’s much higher than 4k to start with”
          Actually, no, it doesn’t, because here’s the thing – only a small portion of our field of view is capable of perceiving any real detail. Smart VR systems use lenses to fill in our peripheral vision using a small number of pixels. Our vision there isn’t good enough to notice a difference. So most of the display’s pixels can be used for the portion of human vision that can actually see them. I believe Oculus works this way as well.

  11. Jekhar says:

    I would really like to have one of these, just to fulfill my teenage selfs dreams. But i guess the wife-acceptance-factor of it is pretty low.

    • makko says:

      Totally get where you at. :) I’d love to have one myself.

    • Battlehenkie says:

      You may be on the brink of exploring Tamriel in person and getting pinballed around by a giant’s club, stabbing a sniper hunched up on the battlements of 2fort in the buttcheeks, ripping the Rift off in panic because you took one step too far in Mirror’s Edge and tumbled off the building.. and your concern for getting one is the wife-acceptance-factor?!

      I have bad news for your manliness my anonymous friend.

      • Jekhar says:

        Yep, that is my concern. After becoming a father last year, having a stable marriage beats impressing anonymous internet tough guys. Deal with it. ;-)

        • Ushao says:

          As into Skyrim as my wife is, I think the wife-acceptance-factor would have to include one for her as well.

  12. talon03 says:

    Oldest marketing trick in the book. Everyone says “we’d give our product to you for free if we could! But of course we can’t.” It’s making a claim that you can’t possibly follow through on, but there’s no way for people to “prove” you wrong.

  13. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    INK OF THE DESPAIR SQUID ALL AWER!

    Zero Dollars

  14. tungstenHead says:

    I can’t decide whether this would be a great idea or a horrible one. On the one hand, it would create a huge audience demanding Rift support. On the other, it would cost developers more to provide that Rift support. The price of games would have to go up.

    As a consumer, I guess I’d end up paying for the thing sooner or later. I generally prefer paying a fixed, up-front price, so I’ll vote no to this.

    And that’s even before we consider competing products that will eventually make it to market.

  15. Rob Lang says:

    What he’s saying makes pretty good business sense, especially if you consider that many of the games we play are moving toward a subscription basis. As soon as you have subs, you have regular income and regular income in any business is better than volatile income because it is easily to predict cash flow.

    I also think this is a wise vision to have and not a cheap marketing ploy. If you aim to partner such that the cost of the hardware is bundled, you are then investing the platform as a whole; the more headsets there are, the bigger the market for games devs. The more games support it, the more headsets will be required. You can give that positive feedback a kick by bundling the hardware – like the Xbone is doing with Kinect (although that’s a more captive market).

    [Edit] I’d buy one, when the price reduces, I wont play everything with it but it would be great to feel more connected to the 3D worlds I inhabit.[/Edit]

  16. PopeRatzo says:

    Here’s a fiver that says Oculus Rift will be ad-supported. How much would advertisers pay for ads that you literally cannot turn away from?

    That, and someone, somewhere, will track what we’re looking at.

  17. Vagrant says:

    Sounds like they want to give the hardware away at a discount but charge developers a license to use the device in their games. Not sure if that’s a winning formula considering the somewhat niche market, but it could work out.

    • Shuck says:

      It would definitely limit widespread adoption, something that has sunk other computer peripherals. How many developers want to pay a license fee on top of the added development cost of providing support on the off chance that some portion of players will be more likely to buy the game if it has Rift support?

  18. AlexStoic says:

    I had a chance to try this and it really does what it says on the tin. It’s amazing. Also, nobody can use one for more than about an hour, even if you’re not prone to motion sickness.

    Still, I think they’ve got the right idea that it needs to be in every household. I could see it being “free”, too. Bundle it with a console, the way that Kinect comes with Xbone.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Why can’t you use it for more than an hour? Do you start getting headaches or something? What’s the deal?

  19. Misha says:

    As somebody who has been trying to find an affordable, actual quality VR headset for ages, I was absolutely thrilled when news of the OR started appearing. And appearing. And appearing. And appearing some more, always with some other new “dream” or “fantasy” end goal attached to the news.

    What consistently failed to appear was an actual, buyable, HD unit on an actual shelf somewhere.

    I’d settle for that right now, even if it has a price tag.

    I remain thrilled by the prospect of an actual HD OR and wish the brilliant young man all of the best with his endeavor, but for now I find myself greeting yet another “OMG, the OR which by the way still can’t be played in actual games, much less be bought in stores, will have another fantastic feature if, when, or wherever it might one day, presumably, in a future far far away or closer than we think, we still don’t know, become an actual THING” with a yawn and a shrug.

    Still waiting, though, wallet in hand.