A new report claims that Oculus is working with Qualcomm to design a headset that won’t require tethering to a PC or phone, and will sell for as little as $200. This standalone headset would be a huge step forward for the industry, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Oculus.
Oculus may have first demonstrated the VR’s ability to generate community excitement, thanks to its fabulous Kickstarter debut. But the company has struggled over the last 12 months. Hardware shipments were delayed due to component shortages. Palmer Luckey was accused of misrepresenting the price; after insisting for years it needed to be roughly $300-$350 to have a chance at gaining mass market share, the actual product launched at $600. Toss in a temporary attempt to implement DRM that was removed again after massive user outcry, and you’ve got a partial list of what’s been pissing off Oculus Rift buyers over the last 15 months.
The net effect of these blunders and problems is that HTC’s Vive took an early lead in VR sales, has dominated Steam’s Hardware Survey, and generally seemed to be pounding Oculus into the mud.
As the graph above shows, HTC’s overall market share remained flat from February to June, still locked in at 0.23 percent market penetration. Now that’s still 1.76x more market share than Oculus Rift enjoys, but the Rift is slowly creeping up while HTC looks like it’s nearly stopped. This could be a sign Oculus’ own controller launch and price cuts have shifted buying momentum back to Oculus.
Now, the company is really tossing out some price bait. Earlier this month, Oculus announced a six-week sale in which the total cost of the company’s Oculus VR headset and touch controller bundle would be slashed to just $400. Earlier this year, the company announced new pricing for the Rift that cut $100 off both the headset and the optional touch controllers, bringing the all-in price down from $800 to $600. Now, starting this month and for the next five weeks, the Oculus Rift + controller bundle is down to just $400. There are also seven free games in the bundle: Dead Buried, Dragon Front, Lucky’s Tale, Medium, Quill, Robo Recall, and Toybox. This bundle makes the Rift a much better value than the HTC Vive, which is still selling for $800.
If you’ve read any coverage of hardware events this year, you’ve almost certainly heard of backpack VR systems (meant to make the whole affair more mobile) and even wireless VR prototypes. Wireless VR is a great theoretical idea, but we’re a bit far from shipping hardware just at the moment. Bloomberg, however, reports Oculus is working with Qualcomm to build a standalone VR device that wouldn’t need to connect to a PC or smartphone to display VR content. The lower price tag ($200, as mentioned above) could also spur adoption — though I suspect that will depend both on the visual quality differences between the Rift and the Oculus….whatever they call it, as well as how heavy, bulky, and hot the new device is. An unnamed source has claimed that the new product, codenamed Pacific, will be more compact than the Rift while weighing less than the Gear VR.
According to IDC, Samsung and Sony lead the market overall, with HTC well behind both, and Oculus far behind HTC.
With only 4.4 percent of the market, Oculus is undoubtedly trying to improve its own position, and gear from HTC could really use a price cut. IDC reports 1.32 million VR headsets were sold in Q1 2016, while 2.24 million were sold in Q1 2017. But given the share of the market that Sony and Samsung collectively command, it’s clear the bulk of the sales boost has accrued to them in absolute terms, with much smaller shares going to Oculus and Vive. Sony, after all, didn’t even have a VR device in-market until Q4 last year, and while some of that surge in sales is going to be Christmas shopping, some of it represents Sony’s entry into the headset business.
Now read: The Best VR Headsets and Accessories