Today, just before Mobile World Congress, HTC announced both Vive VR’s price tag and some additional features. The headset will cost $800 at launch, pre-orders begin on February 29, and the device will include some novel functionality, including the ability to integrate with smartphones.
Vive’s official announcement states: “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.”
Vive is talking about full SteamVR integration into its platform and the $800 price tag buys you two hand tracking, wand-like controllers. I experimented with these in Sonoma at RTG’s Polaris architecture event, though I didn’t come away with a high opinion of them — they weren’t working all that well when I tested them, and one hand kept dropping out during gameplay. Assuming that issue got solved, the final controllers were comfortable enough and easy to hold for the short time I used them.
The Vive ships with two titles, at least for now — Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption, neither of which I’ve played personally.
Don’t pre-order a Vive, either
Earlier this month, after Oculus unveiled its recommended hardware, I stated that I didn’t think people should pre-order the Rift, even though I believe VR has tremendous long-term potential and want to see it succeed in the gaming market.
All of the reasons I recommended people take a wait-and-see approach to the Rift apply to the Vive as well, at least as strongly. However gobsmackingly amazing VR may prove in the future, right now, today, the technology is new, and the price of entry can be considerably more than $600 to $800 depending on what kind of PC hardware you currently own. I’ve built gaming PCs for people for less money than you’ll pay for just the HTC Vive.
There’s a lot we don’t know yet about how VR solutions will compare between companies or which games will be cross-compatible on which platforms, and which willtechnically be cross-compatible, but in reality will perform vastly better on one solution versus another. Oculus has gathered most of the headlines to-date, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to field the best solution.
The fact that many PC gamers who have been perfectly happy with 30-60 FPS at 1080p will need to upgrade to substantially more powerful hardware in order to experience VR means that it’s all the more important to wait and see what real-world performance looks like. Do you need a GTX 970, a 980, or a 980 Ti? Is an R9 390 enough performance, or should you buy a Fury X or wait for Pascal / Polaris later this year on 14nm? These aren’t just hypothetical questions; they all carry price tags. It’s going to take some time post-launch to see how the hardware compares, how game support shapes up, and which solutions ultimately deserve buy-in and which don’t.
When I recommended people hold off on pre-ordering the Oculus Rift in favor of waiting for reviews and performance data, some readers commented that it was strange to see a website called ExtremeTech being so conservative with its recommendations. I’m perfectly happy to extoll the virtues of VR or other cutting-edge technology when we’re talking about them as experiences or potential game-changers. When it comes to telling you where I think you should spend your hard-earned cash, I’m a lot less willing to play fast-and-loose with my recommendations.
If you already have a tricked-out high-end gaming rig or a six-figure take-home pay, you’ve got enough cash on hand that you don’t have to worry if your VR bet doesn’t pan out. If you were one of the first Oculus backers on Kickstarter and you’ve stayed engaged with the company since it first went live, you’ve already made your ecosystem and purchasing choices.
If $600 to $1,500 represents a huge chunk of money for you — and I suspect for most people, it does — then wait. Be excited for the possibilities, but don’t buy the hype. Wait for concrete reviews and long-term compatibility projections before you commit to backing any platform, and you’ll be a lot more likely to be happy with both the headset you buy and the hardware you buy to power it.