Everyone panicked about the price of the Oculus Rift, the first high-end VR system for PCs, when it was announced a few months ago. $600 for a VR headset? That's crazy. Indeed, founder Palmer Luckey even apologized for implying the price was going to be lower. Then came the HTC Vive's price reveal this week: $800 -- or, OK, $799. (That's in the US; the UK will pay £689 and in Australia it's $899 for some reason.) Suddenly everyone got even angrier.
But the price of the Vive isn't even that bad. The Oculus Rift costs $600. It comes with a headset, a little desktop position sensor, a remote control, and an Xbox One controller, plus two free games for those who preorder: Eve Valkyrie and Lucky's Tale. But you don't get Oculus' fancy new Touch controllers, which debut later this year.
The HTC Vive gives you a headset, full-room sensors, two wireless Vive game controllers for dual-handed play, and two games if you preorder (Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption). If the Oculus Rift included the Touch controllers, would its package price approach $800 too? Considering the price of high-end PC controllers, it's entirely likely.
The Vive's dual controllers, and how they work, are a lot better than an Xbox controller
The Vive's included tech is considerably more advanced out of the box than the Oculus Rift. It has full-room position sensing, which means you can take a walk in a holodeck-like environment, versus the Rift's slightly more restrictive room movement. It has a camera that can help you see around you even with the headset on. And most importantly, its included controllers are fantastic.
They're designed to let you move and control things in VR, and feel like the best fusion of a game controller and something new. Oculus has its futuristic Touch controllers on the horizon, but right now all you get is an Xbox controller. And trust me, it's not the same.
The HTC Vive, at least, aims to be a "complete set" out of the box: room sensors, the headset, the controllers. The Oculus Rift, in its current about-to-debut mid-2016 form, won't have all the pieces you might want. It means the Vive might even be the better deal.
Too expensive for you? Then PC VR isn't for you
Either way, you'll still need a PC with graphics specs that are pretty high. And we have no idea how many peripherals VR hardware makers will try to sell us down the road.
VR for PCs is high-end, elaborate stuff. Amazing, but elaborate. And most definitely the stuff of early adopters. Still feel like the price is too high? Get a mobile VR headset instead. High-end PC VR gaming isn't meant for everyone. And it's not priced to be, either.
Vive: What your $799 ticket to VR includes (photos)See all photos
But I don't think the price is the issue here. It's what games you can play, and how easy it is to set up and use. Oculus and Valve will be going head-to-head in the PC space, and we don't know, yet, which will win. These are the very first days.
We'll be reviewing both the Vive and the Rift when they launch this spring, but until then, I'd just suggest that if you thought the Oculus Rift was expensive, the HTC Vive isn't really any different. You're going to pay a lot for bleeding-edge VR technology. Just know you get more in the box with the HTC Vive, even if it costs a little bit more up-front.