I Have A Confession To Make About My Rift
I have a confession to make: my Rift CV1 arrived 10 days ago and I haven’t opened it yet. You see… I was busy Wednesday night, and then Thursday the Vive arrived, and it has room-scale, so I set that up, and it’s super fun, and maybe Vive is all I need, and what if instead of unboxing my Rift I just sell it instead?
Thoughts of a mad man? Perhaps. If you told me a year ago that not only would I not rip open my Rift immediately but that I’d consider leaving it unopened altogether, I’d have told you you’re out of your mind. And yet here we are. How did this happen?
For me, there were a few contributing factors. And bear in mind that some of these are the expression of personal preferences, that different people like different things, and all that.
For me, room-scale tracking of head and hands is “next level” VR, and the Vive has this in spades. A large portion of floor space in my two car garage has been cleared off and made available for VR fun times. Using a garage for VR probably isn’t comfortable for many who live outside of Northern California — I know when I lived in Florida I would’ve succumbed to heat stroke in about 20 minutes — but you can pull it off here maybe 9 months out of the year. Valve’s chaperone system provides peace of mind that I won’t smash the washing machine or tumble over the treadmill. There’s enough flexibility in the lighthouse system that I was able to place basestations near power outlets while still providing full coverage.
As a platform for finding, purchasing, installing, and playing games, Steam is unparalleled. Others have tried to replicate its success, with mixed results. I have my own issues with how the Steam Store is laid out, but it doesn’t seem to be hampering sales, otherwise Valve would dig in to the user experience and make improvements. Valve has done a great job of blending “flat” and VR to reduce as much of the friction as possible in getting players into and out of VR.
A key reason HTC/Valve had a decent number of launch titles is they were generous in who they anointed with early hardware. While some developers may have had gripes around when they received their kits, most of the devs I know did receive them and started to work on either adapting their existing games to Vive or trying new things. And my personal experience with developer hardware support was great: emailed Support at 3pm that one of the basestations was malfunctioning, had a brand new one in my hands by 10am the next morning. That’s an Amazonian level of turnaround, though I’ve heard of at least one instance where this was not the case with the consumer version.
As far as I’m aware, HTC/Valve had no restrictions in place on telling the world you had a Vive. On the flip side, Oculus developers were tied to an NDA that not only kept you from posting photos or videos of you enjoying the Rift, but you couldn’t even admit you possessed one. Happy Vive developers posted photos and videos on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ (just kidding), Snapchat, and beyond, which helped drive interest. It’s hard to know for sure whether these divergent approaches — Oculus closed, Valve open — had a measurable impact on actual sales, but I feel confident saying Valve’s policy allowed them to catch up significantly to Oculus despite releasing their devkit much later.
I’m not even going to tempt opening the can of worms that is the discussion about the Rift’s price. It’s expensive. Or it’s cheap. It’s more affordable than the Vive, but Vive has hand controllers, so it’s not apples-to-oranges. And so on, ad nauseam. There are thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands?) of people who not only haven’t received their Rift yet, but are still months away from doing so, and so who the hell am I to whine about getting mine but not opening it, anyway? Completely valid. My feeling is that once I open the box and set it up, it drops a few hundred dollars in value. Therefore, I want to be very deliberate in breaking the seal. Whether you think the Rift is cheap or expensive, $699 plus tax and shipping isn’t insignificant for most of us.
In truth, there are a few Rift-exclusive titles that may drive me to crack open the box this weekend: The Climb and Lucky’s Tale. I’ve been waiting for The Climb since first trying it last December, as it provokes an exciting sense of vertigo that gets the adrenaline flowing. Lucky’s Tale takes place in a colorful, fun environment and is (for the most part) low stress diversion. We’ll see how the weekend goes.