There’s been good news on the VR front of late, but precious little of it is coming from Oculus. Earlier this week, Sony announced it was closing on one million VR headsets sold since the launch late last year. Sony has moved 915,000 VR units to date, even though we haven’t seen many new VR games launch for the platform (though Resident Evil 7 is a notable exception).
Oculus has been busy these last few months bringing its touch controllers to market, working on a new standalone headset that doesn’t require tethering, and working with developers on new Oculus VR-compatible games. Despite the company’s early position as an industry leader, the last year saw much of Oculus’ pole position drain away, sapped by launch woes, the lack of touch controllers (which HTC’s Vive had), no initial full-room tracking (which again, Vive supported) and consumer blowback over Oculus’ use of DRM. Palmer Luckey himself came under heavy fire for earlier promises to foster an open VR ecosystem followed by attempts to lock content to the Oculus Store.
Oculus’ new VR discounts work as follows: The Rift + Touch controllers are now $ 598 (down from $ 798). If you already own a Rift but need Touch, you’ll only pay $ 100 for the hardware, down from the $ 200 launch price. If you’re just buying a Rift, it now costs $ 500, down from $ 600. If you only need an additional Rift sensor, that’s just $ 59.
Offering separate price cuts on individual components encourages users to stack them together for maximum savings, but it also makes the entry price of PC VR just a little lower than it used to be. Combine this with some of the $ 500 PC VR kits we’ve seen, and the price of a Rift + system is now just over $ 1000.
As for how the market is doing, it’s easy to see why Facebook is slashing the Rift’s price by 25%. Last October, we observed the Vive had a decisive market share advantage over the Rift, as shown below via the Steam Hardware Survey.
First the good news. Both Oculus and HTC grew their businesses by nearly 22% respectively from September 2016 to February 2017. That’s not a bad growth rate over just five months, and while holding less than half a percent of Steam’s total install base may not sound impressive, an awful lot of people have Steam accounts. Slow and steady growth may not be as sexy as meteoric adoption, but it’s a much healthier sign for the industry long-term.
The bad news, of course, is while HTC and Oculus both grew proportionally, they started from very different market positions. Assume, for a moment, that Steam had exactly one million users. In September 2016, that would mean there were 900 Oculus users and 1900 Vive users. By February, there are 1100 Oculus users and 2300 Vive users.
Both companies grew, but the absolute difference in their install bases got larger at the same time. In September, that hypothetical gap was 1000 users. In February, it would be 1200 users. When attempting to bootstrap an entirely new method of playing games, every user counts, and HTC is racking them up faster than Oculus.