Talking to people at CES yesterday, what’s clear is that one of the biggest pieces of news at the show wasn’t really CES news at all: Oculus’ announcement of pricing and availability for the Rift. (March 28, and $599, by the way).
What’s interesting is how clear it is that Oculus, owned by Facebook, has studied at the feet of Apple. And how do we know that? Well, on Monday, Oculus announced that it was opening up for pre-orders, and on Wednesday, it announced pricing and availability. In other words, it got two entire news cycles out of what was essentially a single piece of news.
Oculus might quibble with the argument that opening up for pre-orders and pricing/availability is the same news, but I think the rest of us know that they are. Basically, they should have announced it all at the same time. But by doing one on Monday and another on Wednesday, they were able to steal thunder from the countless TVs and autonomous passenger drones and smart fridges and wearables and everything else at CES. Not just once, but twice. Pure Apple genius.
Of course, Oculus (and its founder, Palmer Luckey) still had to deal with a good deal of anger over the price of the Rift. Many people feel that $599 is way too high. Someone well-placed in the VR business told me yesterday that analysts had pretty much pegged the price as $449. But with Rift/PC bundles starting at $1,400, it becomes a very pricey proposition.
As my former colleague Scott Stein said to me yesterday, what’s becoming evident is that Oculus knows there are two very distinct segments of the VR consumer market–high-end (Rift) and lower-end (Samsung’s Gear VR)–and it may not be too worried that the higher Rift pricing locks out some people in this first year of availability. Instead, it may be content with the masses starting to use its technology on the Gear VR, and then, next year and beyond, when the Rift’s pricing comes down, people move up.
To be sure, a lot of people will buy the Rift. But it’s safe to say that fewer people will buy it at $599 than would have at $449. A recent study suggested that the top line for many would-be VR buyers is $400.
So…time will tell. Ultimately, though, what we learned is that when you have a hot product like the Rift, you have a whole lot of control over how news about it gets released and consumed. And if you want to get two news cycles from it, well, why not? I tip my cap to you, Mr. Palmer Luckey.