Oculus Rift pre-orders went live earlier today, along with the specifications of the PC you’ll need to use it. The unit itself is not cheap, at £499, but there’s also the matter of those PC specifications. A lot of people are not going to have a computer this powerful to hand, meaning that they will have to shell out for extra components or an entirely new machine.
We’ve quickly run the numbers to estimate how much it would cost to buy a Rift and a computer powerful enough to run it. To be clear, this isn't a recommended build, it's a selection of parts to fit Oculus' minimum specifications. Here’s what we came up with:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 £249 at Overclockers
- Intel i5-4590 £155.99 at overclockers
- 8GB+ RAM £79.99 at overclockers
- Oculus Rift £499
On top of this, if you don’t already have them, you’ll need a case (£27.95), power supply (£74.99), motherboard (£109.99), and hard drive (£38.99). Oh, and Windows (£116.99). That’s just the core stuff. We’re also not including the Oculus Rift’s hand controllers, which will be out the second half of this year are likely to cost £100+.
So, the total you’d have to spend to get these components and a Rift would be a minimum of £984, and as much as £1362.89. Component bundles might bring the price down a little.
This is not out of the question, price-wise, for high-end early-adopter types. I know someone who spent £8,000 on one of the first ever flatscreen TVs, after all. But it does rather raise questions about virtual reality - and Oculus specifically - as a widespread, mainstream technology. Even assuming people were ready and waiting to buy into VR, how long will it take for this tech to come down to a price where most people could afford it?
We don’t yet know much about the Oculus Rift’s rivals’ pricing. PlayStation VR has the big advantage of working with the PS4, necessitating no extra outlay on a PC or components for people who already have one (and only an outlay of £250-300 for those who don’t). Considering all its components, HTC’s Vive is likely to push £750 - and you’ll also need space to use it. This throws doubt on the widespread proclamations that VR is the ubiquitous tech of the future. It can’t be the tech of the future if nobody can afford it. At least, not of the near future. Presumably it will come down significantly in price within a few years.
Correction: This post originally included components that wouldn't work when combined. However, to be clear, this is not a recommended build. It's a set of parts selected to meet Oculus' published minimum specifications. If you are going to build a PC or upgrade your current machine for a VR headset there are cheaper ways that buying each component separately.