‘Free isn’t cheap enough’ to make VR appeal to mainstream audiences, says Oculus founder

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey believes "free isn’t cheap enough" to make virtual reality appeal to mainstream audiences.

In a blog post called "Free isn’t cheap enough" (thanks, Gamesindustry.biz), Luckey opined that "no existing or imminent VR hardware is good enough to go truly mainstream".

"Recent market experiments with cheap VR hardware have shown that there are millions of people willing to buy said hardware, but very few among them continue to use the hardware or invest in the software ecosystem for very long," Luckey said. "This is true even when people get the hardware for free – the millions of cardboard boxes fulfilling their ultimate destiny on the back shelf of a closet don’t do much for the VR industry."

Luckey puts the lack of use down to "quality of experience", stating that if the "free hardware was as good as the visor described in the first paragraph and paired with good content, a mass-market VR revolution would occur practically overnight". He added that cost is not what holds consumers back "actively or passively".

"I want to take this a step further and make a bold claim: No existing or imminent VR hardware is good enough to go truly mainstream, even at a price of $0.00," Luckey added in his post. "You could give a Rift+PC to every single person in the developed world for free, and the vast majority would cease to use it in a matter of weeks or months."

A report earlier this year said that consumer content and the apps market for AR and VR combined hit $3.2bn last year, giving a year-on-year growth of 72 per cent. $2bn of that came from apps with AR features – driven by "the high-profile releases of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore SDKs that spurred interest in AR apps".

Former Oculus co-founder, Brendan Iribe, has now also parted ways with parent company, Facebook. Iribe – who founded Oculus in 2012 with Michael Antonov, Palmer Luckey, Nate Mitchell, and Andrew Scott Reisse – had been leading Oculus’ PC VR team, and is thought to have resigned when Facebook cancelled the "Rift 2" project, causing "fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time" that ultimately prompted Iribe’s departure.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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