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A real price cut comes to virtual reality as Rift + Touch bundle drops to $600

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HTC has taken a few punches over the last few days regarding the virtual reality industry. First, device maker LG revealed during the Games Developer Conference that it has teamed up with Valve Software to produce a new VR headset based on SteamVR, the very platform HTC uses with the Vive. Now HTC is facing a very immediate threat: A drastic price reduction of the Oculus Rift.

Oculus VR announced on Wednesday that the Oculus Rift headset and Touch controller bundle now sells for $598, down from the previous $798 price tag. On their own, the Oculus Rift headset now costs $499, the Touch controller pair costs $99, and the Oculus Sensor has dropped its price to $59. And yes, that price applies to all additional Sensors as well, and is $20 less than the previous offering.

The cost has undoubtedly been one of the big barriers keeping a good chunk of mainstream customers from purchasing a VR headset. But that is expected with any new technology and prices typically drop over the following year as hardware components become more readily available and sold at a lower cost. However, that is likely not the case of the new Oculus Rift price reduction.

The HTC Vive has reportedly been the biggest selling virtual reality headset followed by the PlayStation VR headset ($400). That likely pushed Facebook and Oculus VR to slash the prices of the Rift to better compete with the other platforms. And because Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemingly sit upon mountains of cash, there is breathing room to knock $200 off the bundle’s price point.

One of the big problems the Oculus Rift seemingly faces is the platform’s appearance of a walled garden based on its “closed” Oculus Home marketplace. But in reality, the Oculus Rift is capable of playing games sold on Oculus Home as well as Steam whereas the HTC Vive plays games sold on Steam and Viveport but can’t access titles sold in Oculus Home.

The deal with the Oculus Rift accessing Steam games stems from OpenVR. Valve Software used the OpenVR software developer kit’s driver interface to connect the OpenVR platform to the Oculus SDK. In other words, games sold on Steam that support OpenVR will automatically be compatible with the Oculus Rift and the Touch controllers.

“Oculus Home installs the Oculus SDK runtime libraries,” Valve’s Joe Ludwig recently said. “The OpenVR adapter drivers for Rift call into the Oculus’ public runtime libraries to interact with Rift and Touch hardware. Users who purchase a Rift and install Home will have the Oculus SDK runtime libraries and they will be kept up to date by Oculus.”

One of the obstacles the Oculus Rift may be facing is the Steam branding associated with the HTC Vive. PC gamers automatically recognize the Steam platform and Valve Software’s overall history in the gaming business. The price reduction of the Rift, along with the emerging support for the headset in games sold on Steam, should help Facebook and Oculus VR command more of the VR market share over the next several months.

Updated on 03-03-2017 by Lulu Chang: Highlighted price cut of additional Sensors.

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