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Virtual reality is incredible, but that doesn't mean you should buy a Rift or Vive yet

Hayden Dingman | April 18, 2016
Virtual reality is still an expensive first-generation product, with kinks and software support to work out.

Now that Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are officially released to consumers, you might be wondering, “should I buy a VR headset?” Well, the (possibly surprising) short answer is “probably not,” no matter how magical virtual reality already is in its early stages.

As far as video games go, VR has the potential to be the most important technological advance since the transition between 2D and 3D games. Given enough time to grow, however, virtual reality could also change the ways we consume film and television, change the way we create art, change the way we educate ourselves about the world, change architecture and healthcare and even—potentially—the way we think about office environments.

Right now, however, there are only two VR interest groups: Early adopters and everyone else. Early adopters don’t need this article. They are already convinced about VR. Many early adopters have probably been convinced since the earliest Rift dev kit, others since the second-iteration DK2.

Sure, maybe some of you fit into that group and clicked on this article out of curiosity. But the point is, if you’re in that crowd you already know whether you’re buying a Rift or Vive. I guarantee it.

But if you have any hesitation about plunking down on virtual reality in its infancy, then you should wait. Here’s why.

1. The price of the hardware

Well, this is an easy one, and it’s been known since January 6—an important day for virtual reality. That was the day the consumer Oculus Rift went up for preorder and a bunch of people said “Sweet mother of Carmack, you want me to pay how much for VR?”

The answer was $599, plus tax and shipping. That was after years of Oculus founder Palmer Luckey’s saying he wanted to keep the price around $350 to $400. And then the Vive went on sale a few weeks later for $799.

oculus rift consumer shipping

Oculus could’ve handled the price announcement better, and I’d bet they know it. Lest we forget: The price for the Rift isn’t actually that surprising. Flagship phones often cost more than the Rift, and much of the hardware is similar.

The difference is that phones are, for many people at least, essential—be it for their job, their social life, or because of Clash Royale. (Also most people don’t pay $600 up-front for their phone in the United States, but that’s a topic for a different time.)

Virtual reality’s great, but it’s still a novelty. Even if you really got into it, you’d probably use it for an hour or two a day, tops. It’s not a technology made for marathoning, and I’d hardly classify it as “essential” for anyone in its current form—just really, really cool.

 

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