Oculus boss Palmer Luckey has apologised for earlier comments which led many to believe the Rift VR headset would be significantly cheaper than its eventual $600/£500/€700. In a Reddit Q&A shortly after yesterday's price announcement, Luckey acknowledged that he "handled the messaging poorly" when he claimed last September that the Rift would be "roughly in the ballpark" of $350.
Luckey argued that he had made the claim in light of some reports that the Facebook-backed headset could cost as much as $1500. “My answer was ill-prepared, and mentally, I was contrasting $349 with $1500, not our internal estimate that hovered close to $599. I apologize.”
Due to this confusion, he refused to be drawn on the price of the delayed Rift touch controllers, which will now be sold separately from the Rift itself. "“No more ballparks for now. I have learned my lesson”. Contrary to some online chatter, those who pre-order a Touch controller will not be sent it at a later date, but rather will be granted a "spot in line" for ordering one once they become available.
Luckey puts the headset's $600 rather than $350 price down to “prioritising quality over cost." On Reddit, he claimed that “We could have released a lower-quality product and saved one or two hundred bucks, but the all-in cost for the average consumer (including PC) would not have budged significantly."
He also observed that "we don’t make money on the Rift", and tried to play down concerns that people were being made to pay for an Xbox One pad and wireless adaptor that they may not need. "The Xbox controller costs us almost nothing to bundle, and people can easily resell it for profit."
Umbrage about the price has been particularly vocal in the UK and Europe, as added taxes and customs duties bring a Rift order to the equivalent of well over $700 before shipping. Luckey argued yesterday that this was unavoidable:
International Rift prices are not artificially bloated - we have to cover the required taxes, sales tax in USA works differently.— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) January 6, 2016
Despite such concerns, it would appear that there have been significant pre-orders for the first consumer mode of the Oculus Rift. Day one stock sold out within a quarter of an hour, with orders subsequent to that time no longer being promised a March shipment. At the time of writing, attempting to order a Rift brings a message that it will not ship until June. The Rift will also be reaching some retail stores, however - whether this will negate any of the shipping and tax charges remains to be seen.
Luckey declined to guess at a price for HTC and Valve's forthcoming rival headset, the Vive, but maintained that Oculus was the better offering: "I can't comment on price speculation, but I think the Rift is the best headset with the best content and the best long-term support."