That ticket to the virtual world won't come cheap.
Taiwanese phone maker HTC and Bellevue, Washington-based game developer Valve on Sunday confirmed that their Vive virtual reality system would cost $799 (£689) when it launches in early April. The companies will begin taking early orders for the product at 7 a.m. PT on February 29.
Its price tag puts the Vive $200 over the rival Rift system from Oculus, a unit of social-networking titan Facebook. In January, Oculus took some heat for $599 price tag of the Rift, which was double the price of the early developer units. Consumers also will need to buy a gaming PC in the $1,000 range to power either system.
The Vive's price was the last critical bit of information on the system, which has spent the last year wowing people with its demonstrations. Virtual reality has captured the interest of people through its ability to throw you into a totally immersive, digital world. The Vive has set itself apart by giving you the ability to stand up and move around a limited area, further building the illusion that you're truly underwater watching a whale swim past you or shooting at flying bots with your laser guns.
"There is nothing else that can do what the Vive does," said Dan O'Brien, vice president of HTC's virtual reality business, at a press briefing here in Barcelona ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show.
HTC and Valve justify the higher price by calling it a "complete system," which includes the headset, two base stations that detect your motion, earbuds, a link box to connect to your PC and two wireless controllers.
It's the wireless controllers, which serve as your virtual hands or weapons in the Vive world, that set the Vive apart from Oculus. The Rift system arrives initially with a remote control and Microsoft Xbox One controller, and its wireless controller will come in the second half as an additional purchase.
"It's more compelling than buying things piecemeal," O'Brien said.
Oculus has said that its controllers were delayed because the initial games were designed for a more traditional input method like an Xbox controller.
But for Valve and HTC, the inclusion of the controllers is critical to the experience and important for developers. Valve developer Chet Faliszek said there's no plan to sell a discounted bundle without the controllers.
"It's about a consistent platform for developers," he said.
O'Brien and Faliszek talked up the final consumer version of the Vive, which features a refined head strap for increased comfort, a polished finish, a better fit on the gasket (the part of the headset that touches your face) and smaller, quieter base stations. The Vive also comes with a microphone, allowing you to answer and make calls while you wear your headset.
The Vive will come with two free games, Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives by Owlchemy Labs and Fantastic Contraption by Northway Games and Radial Games. Faliszek said the company would unveil more titles and give a better idea of the launch catalog at the Game Developers Conference next month.Vive owners will be directed to Valve's Steam platform to purchase games.
Despite the price of the system and the need to have a dedicated gaming PC, O'Brien said there is a healthy market of tech enthusiasts, gamers and early adopters.
HTC and Valve aren't bothered by the price difference between the Vive and Rift.
"I don't care about anyone else," Faliszek said. "We're going to focus on what we're doing."
Mobile World Congress 2018
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