Y'know that ridiculously expensive Oculus Rift? Yeah, it just got worse

$49 headphones. $79 sensor. $199 controller ... Bankrolling Trump trolls costs a lot, yo


Excited gamers are going to have to dig even deeper if they want to use the new Oculus Rift virtual reality system.

It's bad enough that the basic system costs $599 – almost double the expected price of $350. Today, the Facebook-owned biz revealed a range of accessories that will push its cost even higher.

If you want a pair of half-decent headphones with the VR googles, you will have to cough up an additional $49. And don't imagine you can use your own existing headphones: Oculus has built a custom audio connector.

If you want to use move around in games while using the virtual reality system, you'll need a third sensor to detect your movements – yours for just $79. If you want to go beyond the basic Oculus remote and make the most of the games that the company is touting as the future of gaming, well, that will be another $199 for a controller.

So $926 before you even plug the system in. Then you are probably going to have to buy a new computer to handle the processing – or at least significantly beef up your PC. The cost of that? Somewhere between $500 and $1,500.

You have to wonder how big the market is for a $1,500 to $2,500 gaming platform when you can buy the latest PlayStation 4 for $300 and its VR headset for a further $399. The HTC Vive is $799. Google's new set up of its latest iPhone-killer, the Pixel phone, and cosy headset costs the same.

Is Oculus worth double the cost of its competitors? It's a big ask, especially if the big game titles are not there. And given that most reviews of the system have been tepid at best.

Games?

The company was keen to push how fantastic those upcoming games will be at the Oculus Connect conference in San Jose, California, and kept telling the developers in the audience on which its entire future is dependent how much it loved them and how much money there were going to make if they made games for the platform.

There was no mention however of the fact that the company keeps alienating those self-same developers. In May, it backtracked on a promise not to lock down its software to its hardware, infuriating many. Last month, more developers said they were out when it was revealed Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was funding pro-Trump trolls to flood the internet with anti-Hillary-Clinton memes during the US presidential election.

We note that Luckey was entirely absent from this week's Connect conference.

The fact that Oculus has gone to the trouble of creating a custom audio socket is just another sign of the organization's desire to create an entirely walled garden.

Oculus says there will be some 35 new games available in time for what is presumably a big Christmas shopping season push. It showed a brief video outlining some of the titles. They were notable by the fact that none of them were identifiable.

The marquee first-person shooter game it highlighted? A new game from Ukranian games developer 4A Games, best know for its Metro game series, called Arktika 1. The Metro series is good – each title averages around 7 out of 10 in most reviews. But 4A Games is not Naughty Dog or Rockstar or Electronic Arts. Or Bethesda. Or Ubisoft.

Without any of those big-name developers on stage to talk about their new games, Oculus fell back on the idea of VR art and educational apps. One featured new game: the ability to graffiti a virtual wall.

"Tagging is great fun by yourself," one Oculus exec argued unpersuasively, "but tagging with others, and you really lose track of time." Now there's a sales pitch: "Oculus: lose track of time."

Big future titles? Tie-ins with the movie studio behind the new Bladerunner movie, and with YouTube band Ok Go. Speaker after speaker at the conference talked excitedly about the future of virtual reality.

The big question though is: what part will Oculus play in that big future? On the basis of its ever-ballooning cost and lackluster content, it may not be much. ®


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