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Oculus Founder: A Cheaper Rift Would Have Been a Mistake

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey defended the $599 price tag of his  company’s Rift virtual reality headset in an interview with Variety Wednesday, saying that it would have been a mistake to make compromises in order to bring down the price. “People will always come out against any price point,” Luckey said.

Facebook-owned Oculus announced at CES Wednesday that the Rift is going to start selling for $599 in March. For that price, consumers will get the headset itself as well as a positional tracking sensor, an Xbox game controller and an Oculus remote control.

Oculus will sell the Rift on its website and ship it to 20 countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and much of Western Europe. In April, it will start selling the device “in limited locations at select retailers,” according to the Oculus blog.

The high price tag immediately caused a backlash amongst VR enthusiasts online, with many complaining that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey previously said that the price will be in the same ballpark as the pre-release version the company had been selling to developers. That version, dubbed the DK1, was being sold for $350.

However, Luckey defended the higher price when talking to Variety, saying that the company wouldn’t have been able to ship the device with comparable display technology for less. “We are not making money on the Rift,” he added. And if Oculus had decided for a cheaper headset, it would have risked turning people off VR altogether, he argued.

Luckey also said that the Rift’s price itself won’t actually the biggest barrier to entry for many consumers. “For most people, it’s the cost of the PC,” he said. The Rift requires a high-powered gaming PC, which will force many consumers to upgrade. Oculus has partnered with select computer makers to bundle Rift-ready PC with the headset itself, with prices starting at $1500.

Oculus executives have long said that gamers will be the first ones to buy the Rift. Luckey compared the Rift to Sony’s PS3 game console Wednesday, which also initially sold for around $600, only to come down in price over time.

Oculus Studios head Jason Rubin went on to argue that his company already has a solution in place for more price-conscious consumers. “We have an answer for that. It’s called Gear VR,” he said, referring to the mobile VR headset that Oculus launched together with Samsung late last year.

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