oculus rift

Oculus Rift price cut sparks concern over low consumer interest in VR

The Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset has had its price cut for the second time this year, sparking concerns that the peripheral isn’t resonating with consumers as well as anticipated.

Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, is temporarily cutting the combined price of its Rift headset and Touch controllers to $399 (£310) for six weeks beginning on Monday, said Jason Rubin, Oculus vice president for content.

That matches the price of another virtual reality set, PlayStation VR, made by Sony, which is designed to work with the Playstation 4, a games console that has already sold in the tens of millions.

Vive, a virtual reality set developed by HTC, is listed for sale at $799 on its website, and it has not recently cut the price.

Facebook paid $3bn to acquire Oculus and retain its employees in 2014.

Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that the medium, which offers a 360-degree panoramic view through headsets, would “become a part of daily life for billions of people.”

That has not happened, although it is unclear if that is because of high prices, something inherent in the technology or some other reason.

Pricing discounts are sometimes a sign of weak product sales. Rubin, though, said in an interview that was not the case with Oculus, which he said could have cut the price sooner but wanted to wait until there were enough games, movies and other entertainment to keep a broad audience busy.

The pace of game releases has quickened, making a wider appeal possible, Rubin said: “We’re now in a space where the mass market can be much happier.”

Oculus cut its price once before this year, dropping it from $798 to $598 in March.

In May, Oculus shut the doors of its Story Studio, two years after it launched at the Sundance Film Festival, to focus on external content makers.

Another setback was a $500m legal judgment against Oculus in February, when a jury found in favour of video game publisher ZeniMax Media in a lawsuit accusing Facebook and Oculus of copyright infringement. Oculus has asked for a new trial.

In February a team developed super-high-density LCD displays using a new ‘blue-phase’ liquid crystal, allowing for triple the number of pixels on the same size screen with reduced power consumption.

The screens were touted as a way to boost resolution in VR headsets that typically look grainy to consumers due to the proximity of the screen to the user’s eye. 

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