Vive and kicking – HTC prices their high fidelity VR offering

HTC Vive VR will command hefty price at £689 in the UK and $799 in the US.

Virtual Reality is nearly here - how will pricing affect the competition?

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The high fidelity Virtual Reality experience is about to hit the market, and the two biggest players looking to dominate the PC-enabled (as opposed to console enabled offerings like PlayStation VR) are Oculus VR’s Rift, and HTC’s Vive. VR presents an interesting consumer challenge. If you’ve tried it out at one of the numerous trade shows that have been touting the greatness of VR, you’re no doubt already sold. Articulating the remarkable experiences that VR can offer has become one of the largest hurdles to overcome, with many outlets simply saying ‘you have to try it’.

Virtual Reality Headsets

For the new wave of VR, price could become the differentiator as consumers weigh up the opportunity cost to invest in a technology which is yet to be market tested.

The first to announce

In January Oculus VR were the first of the two big hitters to announce the price of their Virtual Reality offering, the Oculus Rift, with a not insubstantial £499 in the UK and $599 in the US. Whilst consumers were expecting something in the region of $200, and even the most pessimistic industry commentators guessed a price tag of $350, the announcement was met with strident disappointment.

Oculus VR's Oculus Rift

HTC hit back

HTC on the other hand arguably has more tech under the bonnet than the Rift, with advanced spatial recognition features enabled by the front mounted camera raising the cost of production by necessity. Paired with wireless controllers to let you manipulate the virtual worlds you enter through the Head Mounted Display, some reports set the price of the Vive as high as $1500.

HTC and Valve's Vive Headset

When HTC’s pricing announcement came, along with the launch of pre-orders, the cost was far below those massive estimates, but at $200 more expensive than their nearest competitor, which will consumers opt for – the Vive or the Rift?

Pre-orders for HTC’s headset have shown promise, with HTC’s Shen Ye tweeting that more than 15,000 units had been ordered within the first ten minutes of availability.

The VR arms race is only just beginning, and unless either Oculus VR or HTC see truly astounding pre-order figures, we’re unlikely to see any announcement specifying exact sales figures anytime soon. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who bought Oculus VR back in 2014) has also been careful to moderate expectations, suggesting that sales in the first year will be in the region of hundreds of thousands, rather than millions.

Early adopters

Early adopters of a new technology are always to be expected, but it may be some time before high fidelity VR attains ‘mass adoption’ status. To look at the Smartphone – a piece of technology that has become ubiquitous in recent years, and continues to increase market penetration worldwide – it took around three years before trail blazer technology like the BlackBerry really began to find a mass audience outside of business.

By setting such a high price point, HTC are making a declaration; that this is not a throwaway technology – that VR is not a fad. Early adopters will certainly feel the pain in their bank accounts when shelling out the best part of a grand for the latest toy, but such a large investment could become just that – an investment.

Eager consumers unboxing their headsets on day one will have a vested interest in evangelising the merits of their latest tech, if nothing else so they can retroactively justify such a large price tag.

- Thomas Wallis

Get in touch with the author of this article on twitter: @ClacTom

What do you think of the prices of the Vive and Oculus Rift? Let us know in the comments section below.