Facebook’s third annual Oculus Rift event occurred last week, showing off what they have in store for the coming months. Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook and owner of Oculus stated earlier this year that he was excited to take on a more significant role in the Oculus Rift development. Of course since buying Oculus back in 2014 for 2 billion dollars, Zuckerberg has been very excited to invest in the world of VR but more in a social networking sense than gaming.
The third key note Oculus showed off a demo of Facebook VR in which user avatars in different locations were able to connect with each other in a chatroom and were able to talk and play games. Along with Facebook VR, rumours suggest that Oculus are planning on creating Instagram VR which could allow users to upload 360 degree photos/videos.
Facebook’s VR Product Manager Mike Booth stated that he expected the Oculus to be released “as soon as possible”, he went on to explain that Facebook was eager to release the first Oculus Rift in order to get sufficient feedback from its early users.
Facebook have stated that they will be investing 10million dollars to help create independent games for the VR headset. For those of you who are interested some of the launch titles include Eve Valkyrie, Chronos, Edge of Nowhere, Damage Core, VR Sports Challenge, Esper, AirMechVR and Lucky’s Tale.
One of the most encouraging updates to the Oculus is newly developed controllers, without which it had been at a disadvantage to competitors like Playstation VR and HTC vive. The new controllers fit perfectly in your hand and in addition to the buttons and thumbsticks the controller is able to track your other fingers that aren’t touching the controllers.
The keynote then turned to the near future by showing off the upcoming wireless VR headset which will be called ‘Santa Cruz’. Design wise it looks the exact same as the Oculus Rift, but Santa Cruz has everything you need for VR within the headset including room tracking. The idea for a wireless VR headset is an attempt to close the gap between the expensive Oculus Rift headset and the Samsung Gear VR, this is indeed a step in the right direction for VR as users who do purchase the headset will not need a computer or smartphone to connect it to. Zuckerberg was quick to point out that this is just an idea for now, so with no release date announced it could be years until we see a wireless VR.
This keynote was a clear indication of what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s true intentions are for VR, it will be interesting to see whether this increased attention to a more social networking VR experience will pay-off for Facebook, especially with their biggest rivals coming from the gaming industry and obviously focusing more on that aspect of VR.
It is important to look at how the Oculus Rift compares to its competitors, as things stand the Oculus Rift is priced at 599.99 dollars which 100 dollars more expensive than the Playstation VR with their highest bundle being priced at 499.99 dollars. The HTC vive however, is priced at a staggering 800 dollars.
Here in Ireland, we are still awaiting official release dates and pricing for the Oculus Rift, the Playstation VR is being priced at 399.99 euro (gamestop) while the HTC vive comes in at 899.99 euro. This is certainly a bold play by HTC especially when up against the Oculus Rfit which is expected to be priced around 500 euro and Playstation who do of course have a slight advantage already over the vive and oculus with 43 million Playstation 4 consoles been sold worldwide.
HTC representatives claim that the company has sold over 140,000 units for their VR experience. Back in August HTC’s China regional president for VR Alvin Grayling claimed the firm had sold 100,000 units but, chairman Cher Weng explained that now this number is well over 140,000. His statements are backed up after recent reports suggesting that HTC profits rose 40% between the period of August and September.
With the holiday season fast approaching it will be interesting to see which VR system will sell the most and which will be left playing catch up. For the Oculus Rift the next series of weeks will be vitally important if they are to really make an impact in the VR market.
Conor McGovern | Tech Editor