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VR Digest: Oculus slashes price of the Rift

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VR Digest: A VR newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent
written by John Dewar (@jstarrdewar) Issue 128 – July 13, 2017

VR Digest: A Virtual Reality newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent

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Oculus Slashes Price of the Rift

Oculus cut the price of the Rift+Touch bundle by $200 for its “Summer of Rift” sale. Standalone Rift or Touch purchases do not receive the discount—clearly Oculus wants to make sure nobody goes without hand controllers. The sale will last “for a limited time only…while supplies last.” An unspecified termination date gives Oculus some wiggle room if the sale proves successful. Outward appearances are that it has indeed moved a lot of units. Amazon’s Prime Day coincided with the launch of the Oculus Sale and briefly stacked an additional $100 discount on top of the deal; it sold out in minutes.

A narrative did appear that Oculus was desperate to move units among flagging sales, hence the massive price drop. That was kicked off by a depressing article in the MIT Technology Review that offered no evidence for its claims, but urged readers to disbelieve a reasonable explanation that Oculus VP Jason Rubin gave Reuters—that Oculus was waiting for its summer wave of titles (headlined by Lone Echo) to be released.

Our readers should bear in mind that Oculus has long discussed a strategy of selling the Oculus at cost—and continuously bringing down the price—in order to create the biggest user base possible. With Facebook’s backing, they can afford to pursue that strategy.

Remember that Mark Zuckerberg has long sought to own a platform all his own; he plowed tons of resources into the failed Facebook phone project. Oculus Home is by comparison already a rousing success. If we all agree that someday VR will be a dominant computing platform, it makes perfect sense for Facebook to continue to support the company at a loss.

This is bad news for HTC. The Rift, at least temporarily, now costs half of what a Vive does. But HTC is loath to reduce the price further. For the Vive to be a successful product for HTC, it must be profitable. Valve owns the app store, and Viveport—HTC’s storefront—is unlikely to find major success as additional SteamVR hardware from competitors like LG reaches the marketplace.
 

Bits

Oculus and Ready At Dawn’s new flagship game, Echo Arena, is enjoying an extension to its free beta period, which now continues through July 17 (the game officially launches 3 days later).

We had an awesome time playing with and against other people. The visuals are off the charts and the interaction paradigms, like hurling yourself through space by grappling objects with your hands, are very satisfying. It genuinely creates a similar vibe to a friendly soccer match or ultimate frisbee game out in the field but you are a bunch of humanoid robots with highly articulated bodies in a weightless environment. A simple cross-arena wave from a friend/competitor tests and cements presence quite fully in a very intimate way.

It bends the rules for avoiding sim sickness, but it very well may be worth it as an excuse to build up your tolerance (Oculus gave it a “Moderate” rating). It's lots of fun and a shining example of the potential for social VR to be a real alternative to real life “hanging out.”

A new trailer for the campaign version of the game, Lone Echo, arrived this week. It will be sold separately.

Oculus, Intel, and ESL have founded a VR sports initiative called VR Challenger League that features a combination of online and offline tournaments culminating in a global championship with a $200,000 prize.

The rise of esports in general is meteoric and the VR version promises to eventually fuse “real” and “video game” sports into competitions that are demanding of cognitive and physical skills alike.

The Void and Epic Games, creator of Unreal Engine, are among the 11 participants in Disney’s 2017 Accelerator program. The Void currently has four sites for its warehouse-sized experiences; Ghostbusters: Dimension at Madame Tussaud’s in NYC has obtained wide popularity. CEO Cliff Plumer says The Void sees “incredible potential to bring a new form of location-based entertainment to audiences across the globe” and that they “know that the power of The Walt Disney Company will help [them] get there.” While it’s not clear how Disney will help Epic Games, the two companies have been collaborating for years, implementing Unreal Engine technology in rides at Disney theme parks as well as Star Wars movies, and this likely signals an even deeper collaboration. [Road to VR]

Google’s answer to Oculus Medium is Blocks, a highly simplified take on hand sculpting in VR. You wield tools mainly based on geometric primitives that make it easy to create artwork in the popular “low poly” art style.

But it also goes a bit further in engaging professionals with true face, vertex, and edge manipulation. In his first 10 minutes, Aaron created a futuristic spaceship with this technique that he wouldn't mind basing a simple game on or printing as a knick-knack.

Users have already found that Blocks pairs beautifully with Tilt Brush, with Anna Zhilyaeva posting a video of herself working on a cityscape that she modeled in the former and detailed in the latter.

VR Digest™ is a Virtual Reality Newsletter brought to you by Studio Transcendent, a producer of premium Virtual Reality experiences. We publish weekly on Thursdays.

 
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