Is the Oculus Rift Really as Expensive as It Seems?

January 12, 2016, 3:22 PM UTC
Oculus VR

The sticker shock over the $600 retail price of the Oculus Rift may be starting to fade, but there’s still a good bit of grumbling among the virtual reality faithful.

As this next evolution in the gaming world looms—and the Facebook-owned (FB) Rift is basically a new way to play games, which puts it on equal footing with the PlayStation or Xbox—we got to wondering: How does the VR headset’s pricing really stand up to the “good old days” of less expensive console systems?

WATCH: Oculus preorders are exceeding expectations:

It turns out the Rift isn’t nearly as expensive, relatively, as it might seem at first glance. Here’s a look at what some classic game machines might have cost had they come out today, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator. (Prices are rounded to the nearest dollar and, in instances where there were multiple models, the most expensive was factored in.)

3DO (1993): The brainchild of Electronic Arts (EA) founder Trip Hawkins was named Time magazine’s “product of the year” in 1994, but never found a solid user base. It was discontinued in 1996.
Original price: $700
Price adjusted for inflation: $1,150

Neo-Geo (1991): Initially sold only to hotels, bars, and restaurants, Neo-Geo expanded its marketing when it discovered some gamers would be willing to buy the expensive system whose graphics were arcade-level quality—something unheard of at the time. Japanese game company SNK Corp. created the unit.
Original price: $650
Price adjusted for inflation: $1,133

Intellivision (1979): Mattel Electronics’ Intellivision was the first 16-bit game system and it also introduced voice synthesis to gaming in 1982 with the Intellivoice peripheral, which cost $100 to $246 in today’s dollars.
Original price: $300
Price adjusted for inflation: $981

Atari 2600 (1977): It’s a fond gaming memory today, but when it first hit the market, Atari’s console, which kicked off the home gaming craze, was well out of the price range of most people.
Original price: $200
Price adjusted for inflation: $783

PlayStation 3 (2005): Sony (SNE) may be leading this generation with the PS4, but including a Blu-ray drive and proprietary processor system in the PS3 resulted in an enormous initial price tag that it was unable to overcome.
Original price: $600
Price adjusted for inflation: $729

Philips CDi (1991): This was a case of adding insult to injury. Not only was the CDi prohibitively expensive, it’s now viewed as having some of the era’s worst software titles. (Think Hotel Mario and The Wand of Gamelon.)
Original price: $700
Price adjusted for inflation: $1,220

Sega Saturn (1995): While this system, which attempted to compete against the first PlayStation, is a favorite among some gamers, it wasn’t cheap—and its head-fake of a launch date (initially announced to go on sale Sept. 2, 1995, Sega moved it up by several months to beat the PlayStation to market) ultimately caught consumers and retailers flat-footed and doomed the system.
Original price: $400
Price adjusted for inflation: $623

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Of course, not every gaming system cost more than what Rift will charge. Here are a couple that leveraged lower prices into massive success.

Xbox 360 (2005): Microsoft (MSFT) put a $100 premium on its second-generation Xbox, but the sky-high pricing of the PS3 helped make it a hit.
Original price: $400
Price adjusted for inflation: $486

PlayStation (1995): Just as with the PS4, adding state-of-the-art hardware (this time a CD player) boosted the price of Sony’s initial console system, but not to the point that it affected sales.
Original price: $300
Price adjusted for inflation: $467

Keep in mind, though, these prices don’t take into account the cost of the PC required to run the Rift. If your system isn’t up to Oculus’ specs (and it probably isn’t), the costs associated with the Rift could be substantially higher.


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