After months of speculation from both fans and press, HTC has announced pricing details for the Vive, the VR platform that the company has been co-developing with Valve. Available for pre-order on February 29, the Vive will be sold for $799, and will come with the VR headset, two wireless controllers, wall-mounted movement sensors, and two games: Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption. The Vive is scheduled to ship in April.
This is the second of the major, gaming-focused VR headsets to receive pricing details. The Vive's chief competitor, the Oculus Rift, started accepting pre-orders for $599 on January 6, and will begin shipping in waves starting in March. Sony has yet to announce a price for its competing PlayStation VR headset, but early estimates suggest that it will be the most affordable of the three platforms.
This announcement came out of this week's Mobile World Congress, which is where HTC and Valve first debuted the device just one year ago. HTC also used the conference as an opportunity to announce Vive Phone Services:
The consumer edition of Vive also integrates phone functionality. Enabling you to stay connected to the real world, without exiting the virtual world, Vive Phone Services demonstrates the ability to combine both realities without losing touch of either. By allowing you to receive and respond to both incoming and missed calls, get text messages and send quick replies and check upcoming calendar invites directly through the headset, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for both consumers and businesses.
It’s a simple idea, but it’s a forward-facing gesture nonetheless. So much of the conversation around VR circles back around to the notion of the VR user blocked off from the outside world, so it's nice to see a developer try to address that. It also highlights the Vive's new built-in microphone, which is only one of the device's recent hardware improvements. At last month's CES, HTC also announced that the Vive will also have a camera that allows for augmented reality features, but that news was easy to miss in all of the conversation about the Rift's price.
Though the Vive package is priced higher than the Rift, it's also well under some recent estimates--one rumor even suggested that the final package would come out to $1500. Given that the Vive comes with positional sensors and two of its "wand" controllers (and given that the Oculus Touch controller doesn't have a release date or price yet), it's a fairly competitive move. That's not to say that $799 isn't prohibitively expensive for many consumers, especially those who need to build a PC that meets the Vive's requirements.
I'll definitely be waiting for these prices to drop before diving in on either the Vive or Rift, but I'm still pretty excited to see how things shake out over the next couple of years. My (limited) experience with VR has been really positive so far, even when it's broken down. Though I'm skeptical of "It will change everything"-style predictions, I'm also sincerely excited by the potential of VR. Here's hoping that my excitement isn't totally misplaced.