Palmer Luckey’s Oculus has been the VR trendsetter for over four years now. Ever since their original Kickstarter campaign, they have been at the forefront of the VR revival, making us believe again that virtual reality could actually come out of sci-fi and be a real thing. So it was only natural that Oculus be (just) first to market when they introduced the Rift, the first virtual reality product available to the consumer. But was it for the best?
The Oculus Rift’s launch from late last month was a relative hit. There were a few snags about delivery times and a general dissatisfaction from early adopters about communication issues from a PR standpoint. All of those are quite understandable. From both sides. When you’ve pre-ordered a game-changing product four years ago, you’re bound to grow a little impatient at the very end. And from Oculus’ point of view, having such a big product as your first launch could have been much, much worse. Anyways, Zuck picked up the tab for everybody’s shipping charges and now everyone’s happy again. Raving reviews and unprecedented press coverage abound. VR is finally a reality. And it’s absolutely awesome. Luckey’s bunch has stuck the landing after all.
But this week’s launch of the HTCvive, introduced two short weeks after the Rift, seems to want to shuffle the VR deck a little. Although the HTCvive is offered at a full two hundred dollars more than Oculus’ product, it does come with two, very high quality motion controllers and, more importantly, a couple of motion sensors that allow gamers to stand up and move around in the room. Room scale VR is what they call it. “The best and most immersive VR experience on the market.” has been written so many times about the vive in the last 72 hours that I’m starting to feel like Oculus’ time at the top will be even shorter than Holly Holm’s.
Oculus will introduce Touch, their very own motion controllers late this year. But for now, the perception is that HTCvive clearly has the better product. “Cancelling my Rift pre-order for a vive. #Roomscale.” is now what I’ve read on Twitter all week. Did Oculus have the right strategy to rush-launch the Rift to beat the vive to market? Or should they have waited for their motion controllers to be ready to launch a complete product? How much will they sell those for? From what I understand, the package will include two controllers and a second motion sensor to allow room scale VR. If they price it above two hundred dollars, Rift fanboys might start to feel like they’re getting screwed. After all, the HTCvive is still the better product, specs-wise. On top of that, that launch will probably be partially (read completely) obscured by Sony’s PlaystationVR launch in October.
The end result is that Oculus will have launched a half-baked Rift just to beat HTCvive to the punch and that their one chance to shout “me too!” and claim the second spot will be sabotaged by an even more dangerous competitor. A year from now, the market’s perception will be that the vive is the best product on a technical point of view, and that the PlayStationVR has the best games, leaving Oculus stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s gonna take a lot of good marketing to reverse this perception. Good thing that Zuck’s got deep pockets because I feel that he’s gonna need to foot the bill again on this one.