In July, Oculus launched a sale for the Rift with Touch controllers that severely undercut the price of the HTC Vive system. HTC executives said at the time that the Vive’s sales met the company's expectations and that it wasn't willing to discuss a price reduction. It appears that the company is now feeling a little pressure from the competition, because it just announced the Vive's first permanent price drop.
HTC launched the Vive VR system in April 2016 with a $799 price tag, which was significantly more than the Rift's original $549 asking price. HTC justified the higher price by offering a more comprehensive package than the competition, which included hand controllers and the ability to move around in a pre-defined trackable space, whereas the Rift merely offered seated and standing experiences with gamepad controls.
When the two packages offered a significantly different user experience and had completely different capabilities, a large price difference made a lot of sense. But that’s not the case anymore. Oculus launched the Touch controllers for $199 in December 2016, which brought motion controls to the platform, and the company also embraced room-scale tracking with the help of an optional third tracking sensor. These days, the Rift and Vive packages offer directly comparable capabilities.
Oculus took a lot of flack for being late to the game with motion controllers and for the way it handled the Rift’s launch. In March, in a bid to bolster unit sales, the company reduced the price of the Rift and the Touch controllers by $100 each, bringing the complete package's price back down to $549. At that price, Oculus’ platform was a compelling purchase, but the company wasn’t done putting the pressure on HTC. It also launched the “Rift Summer Sale” on July 10, which reduced the price of the Rift and Touch controllers to just $399 for a limited time.
At half the price of the Vive, the Rift and Touch bundle was a no-brainer for anyone who was considering a VR system but was on the fence about which one to get and when. Four days after the summer sale started, Oculus announced that the Rift bundle would not return to the previous $549 price when the sale concludes. Instead, when the summer sale is over, Oculus plans to sell the package for just $499.
HTC is finally responding to the pressure from Oculus with a permanent price reduction, but the company is still maintaining a higher price tag than its competition. Starting today, HTC is offering the Vive system for $599, which brings the Vive’s price back to within $100 of the Rift package. If you factor in the $59 price of a third Oculus sensor to enable the use of room-scale tracking, the difference in price between the two systems is within $50, at least once the Oculus summer sale concludes.