Oculus founder Palmer Luckey apologizes for Rift pricing confusion

“I handled the messaging poorly,” says Palmer Luckey in a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session following the launch of Oculus Rift pre-orders on Wednesday.

When pre-orders were announced yesterday, many were taken aback by the Oculus Rift’s $599 USD (appr. $875 CAD) price tag. The common assumption, based on Luckey’s previous statements, was that the Oculus was going to be priced at a more affordable $399 to $499.

In the AMA, Luckey responded to complaints from fans who felt blindsided by the Rift’s price tag.

“I handled the messaging poorly. Earlier last year, we started officially messaging that the Rift+Recommended spec PC would cost roughly $1,500. That was around the time we committed to the path of prioritizing quality over cost, trying to make the best VR headset possible with current technology. Many outlets picked the story up as ‘Rift will cost $1,500!,’ which was honestly a good thing — the vast majority of consumers (and even gamers!) don’t have a PC anywhere close to the rec. spec, and many people were confused enough to think the Rift was a standalone device. For that vast majority of people, $1,500 is the all-in cost of owning Rift. The biggest portion of their cost is the PC, not the Rift itself.”

Luckey also discusses why he initially mentioned a $350 price tag for the Oculus Rift in a early 2015 interview, saying it was a miscommunication.

“In a September interview, during the Oculus Connect developer conference, I made the infamous ‘roughly in that $350 ballpark, but it will cost more than that’ quote. As an explanation, not an excuse: During that time, many outlets were repeating the ‘Rift is $1,500!’ line, and I was frustrated by how many people thought that was the price of the headset itself. My answer was ill-prepared, and mentally, I was contrasting $349 with $1,500, not our internal estimate that hovered close to $599 — that is why I said it was in roughly the same ballpark.

“Later on, I tried to get across that the Rift would cost more than many expected, in the past two weeks particularly. There are a lot of reasons we did not do a better job of prepping people who already have high-end GPUs, legal, financial, competitive, and otherwise, but to be perfectly honest, our biggest failing was assuming we had been clear enough about setting expectations. Another problem is that people looked at the much less advanced technology in DK2 [Development Kit 2] for $350 and assumed the consumer Rift would cost a similar amount, an assumption that myself (and Oculus) did not do a good job of fixing. I apologize.”

Luckey also gave insight into why his company didn’t release pricing ahead of time, explaining that he believes it didn’t make sense for Oculus to “announce price in a vaccum without all the other info.” Other interesting information taken from the AMA reveals Oculus has no plans to create a cheaper Rift alternative.

“A standardized system is in the best interest [of] developers trying to reach the widest audience, and we cannot significantly reduce the cost without dramatically reducing quality.”