Mainstream VR HMDs Are Coming
Remember when the Oculus Rift was intended to be "mainstream", back before Facebook bought them out and doubled the price of everything? They likely came to the realization that they grossly overpaid for the company, and decided to grab as much cash as possible from early-adopters before dozens of other companies start releasing competing headsets.
That's complete and utter nonsense. Facebook has since decided to spend another 500 million dollars on content. Just take a look at how much software they've been including with first the Rift and then the Touch - even if they were making a profit on the hardware, the included stuff more than swallows that. No, Facebook very clearly are not in this for short-term profit.
What made the price go up was that they decided to go for a higher quality device. Whether that was due to the competition from the HTC Vive or their own belief that the baseline required for acceptable VR was higher than originally anticipated, I don't know. But the hardware on offer is legitimately expensive. The margins are definitely far slimmer than on similarly priced phones.[/quotemsg]
Oculus obviously has a huge markup on their hardware, as does HTC with the Vive, though at least in that case they weren't previously making claims otherwise. Sure, maybe they threw in a gamepad that no-one buying a VR headset actually needed, along with a couple games most purchasers of the headset probably wouldn't have otherwise bought, but those were little more than cheap additions to attempt to justify the inflated cost, and were undoubtedly licensed in bulk at a low cost to them. I highly doubt that the manufacture of the product itself, even including the unnecessary pack-in items, costs them more than around $400 per unit to produce. Likewise, the Touch controllers they just released in no way cost them anywhere remotely close to $200 to manufacture, and could have easily been sold for closer to $100.
And sure, maybe the product does offer a somewhat higher level of quality than originally planned, but Sony's PSVR headset also offers a high level of quality, and it's possible to pick up a complete PSVR system, including the headset, camera, motion controllers, and even the PS4 console to run it on for less than an Oculus Rift with Touch controllers. You can't tell me an Oculus Rift setup costs more to manufacture than a complete PSVR setup and a Playstation 4 combined. Yes, Move controllers are a bit outdated at this point compared to the Rift or Vive controllers, but that clearly doesn't account for a $300+ difference. And the PSVR has been generally agreed to be the most comfortable and easily adjustable of the current consumer headsets. Of course, it's not available for use with PCs for now, but that's not stopping any of these other upcoming headsets from offering a PC-compatible VR package of comparable quality at a similar price.
Facebook's planned investment in VR content does not necessarily equate to content exclusively for the Rift either. The vast majority of that content will undoubtedly be made available for other headsets, consoles, and mobile VR as well. They understand that there's money to be made in VR, whether its on their headset or others, and their investment in VR content does not necessarily depend on the long-term success of the Oculus Rift. And that's not to say Oculus will fail, just that their headset will soon be one of many, and they're trying to cash in on early-adopters while they still can, before competition forces them to price their hardware at lower margins closer to what the hardware is actually worth.
I wouldn't mind the Oculus Rift's pricing quite as much if they hadn't previously convinced most that their headset would be priced somewhere below $400, without giving any suggestion that it would cost more until shortly before the official pricing was announced. When a lot of people were displeased at them for selling out to Facebook, Lackey claimed it would allow for a lower price and a timely release without product shortages, none of which turned out to be true. The Oculus Rift came out at least a year or more later than most expected, hundreds of dollars more expensive than most expected, and without the manufacturing capacity to get the units out to people in a timely manner. And of course, it's still all tied to one of the world's largest advertising companies, who will no doubt be looking for ways to track and monetize everyone's VR experiences in the coming years.
Plus, this is all first-gen hardware in a relatively new field (as far as consumer devices go), that will likely become more or less obsolete within a few years. $800 can be a bit hard to swallow when it's clear that devices featuring higher resolution, eye-tracking with foveated rendering, hand/body tracking, better comfort, and wireless connectivity are likely to start appearing within the next couple years. And really, there still isn't even that great of a selection of software for the devices yet. Most VR games released so far amount to little more than tech-demos or budget mini-games, with the occasional bigger title getting some amount of VR support tacked on. I'm sure there will be a better selection of software soon enough, but there will also be a better selection of VR headsets as well.