Virtual reality headsets look like they will be the next battleground for the console wars: Facebook purchased Oculus Rift, Microsoft has Hololens, Sony is developing Morpheus and Valve recently announced a partnership with HTC to create Vive. Currently, all of these products are in development and only available to try during trade shows or in the form of development kits.
This leaves consumers with a very important question: when will VR headsets be available for the home? Valve already answered this question, to an extent, indicating they plan to release Vive sometime this year. Unfortunately, the remaining tech giants developing VR headsets haven’t confirmed release windows.
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, however, tried to shed some insight to the development process and how much longer consumers would need to wait for an Oculus in their home. During an ask me anything panel conducted at SXSW, Luckey responded to an inquiry regarding a previously hinted 2015 release, suggesting it might no longer be in the cards.
“I did say [that] before we made a lot of changes to our roadmap. We've expanded a lot of the ambition we had around the product and what we wanted to do. We don't have anything to announce. Now is not the time nor the place, but everything is going well.”
Luckey went on to say that he believes Oculus Rift will be the best VR headset at any price point. It's a bold statement, but one that does raise another important question for potential-customers: what will be the price of VR headsets when they release?
Based upon Luckey’s announcements, and Microsoft and Sony's radio silence regarding these details, it looks like the answer to these types of questions will come when Valve releases Vive in 2015. Being first to market could prove a big win for the Steam creator and set the tone for the remaining VR companies to follow.
The importance of coming out first is vital when it comes to capturing a mindshare of the market — Microsoft gained a huge momentum boost by releasing the Xbox 360 a year ahead of PlayStation 3 and the tables turned when Sony released PlayStation 4 earlier than Xbox One during the 2013 holiday season.
However, savvy consumers likely won’t flock to the first product that is available, but will wait to make an informed decision. Luckey is confident that research will lead gamers to the purchase of an Oculus Rift:
“Us partnering with Facebook has allowed us to do a lot of things we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise, like hiring 300 people to work on getting the Rift out as quickly as possible to the quality level we wanted to. I can't comment on the date one way or another, in either direction, but I can say that nothing is going horribly wrong. Everything is going horribly right.”
Do you plan on picking up a VR headset? Is one of the offerings already more appealing than the other? Does being first to market matter to you?