Editorial: Why You Might Want To Pause Before Buying HTC Vive

by Ian Hamilton • August 21st, 2017

This week HTC dropped the price of its Vive PC VR system by $200, bringing it much closer to that of its chief competitor the Oculus Rift.

$600 for Vive is precisely the price I called for in a recent editorial, making it competitive with the Rift again. However, the decrease comes absent a critical update to the hardware I’m hoping to see sometime in 2018. This update might not just lower the cost of the overall system but it should allow for more robust setups and a better experience overall.

Any readers who are new to VR hardware or even gaming in general probably aren’t aware that the critical tracking technology deployed in the Vive is owned by Valve Software, the company behind a collection of well-loved video games including Half-Life, Dota and Portal. It is also the company behind the Steam store, which is the leading distribution platform for PC video games.

This tracking technology from Valve is due for a major upgrade that could arrive, at least for developers, as early as November. It is unclear if or when HTC plans to adopt this new technology.

Valve’s tracking technology is already pretty slick — you place or mount two “lighthouse” boxes in your room and suddenly the headset, controllers and even accessories can be tracked with pinpoint accuracy. Tracking is critical for creating a sense of presence in a virtual world. By tracking the headset and controllers in each hand your brain can become convinced your head and hands are actually there in another place.

This Valve tech is already better than the Oculus Rift’s because it doesn’t need to be plugged into the computer to operate. As a result it is way more convenient. The new 2.0 version of Valve’s SteamVR Tracking may increase your sense of presence dramatically though.

First, 2.0 tracking could allow you to have more than two of these boxes in your room. These additional boxes could be used to increase the size of the tracked space so you stay immersed in a virtual world for longer without finding the edge and being reminded that it isn’t real.

vive tracker

Vive Tracker

Second, HTC is also preparing to release Vive Trackers, which can be attached to your feet, hips or to accessories to bring additional stuff into VR. For example, many VR developers only show your head or your hands in a virtual world — you might look like a ghostly head or a robot — because those are the only things that are tracked. If the developer tried to represent more of you with current technology they’d get it wrong and it would feel weird. Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing an arm bending backward even though you know that’s not the way your arm looks. The risk is that as you bring these additional parts into a virtual world you increase the chances that an odd position or occasional movement could cause a tracking loss, with the boxes no longer able to see a Tracker attached to your foot. Right now when these boxes are arranged properly losing tracking isn’t common, but not everyone sets them up right or has the perfect space to allow for ideal mounting. Installing additional tracking boxes might allow people to set up the system in a less than optimal way and still never lose tracking.

I wouldn’t recommend people skip the HTC Vive just because this upgraded tracking technology hasn’t arrived. It is the law of consumer electronics that as soon as you buy something it is outdated. There is always something better right around the corner. Additionally, let me be clear that the Vive is awesome as is offering robust room-scale VR, and at $600 there has never been a better time to get one. It is just that with the prospect of this tracking upgrade potentially arriving in 2018, combined with other advances next year, the result is likely a profound difference. We can expect less expensive PCs to run VR along with wireless accessories that will get rid of the annoying tether that’s a constant reminder of the real world while wearing a Vive. Plus, there’s the prospect of improved controllers arriving that are also in development at Valve. Add all that to the fact that these 2.0 Tracking boxes will be less expensive to make compared with the current generation, and you are faced with the reality than in 2018 $600 will let you go deeper into a virtual world and stay there for much longer than in 2017. If money is tight, this is definitely something to consider.

I’m not saying don’t buy a Vive or even an Oculus Rift right now. Every person that buys one of these headsets is another person that can buy software and help the industry on its way to self-sufficiency, which is great for creators. I just want to make sure everyone is aware of what is likely coming next year and why it matters.

As a sidenote, we confirmed recently that LG is still working on its SteamVR-based headset featuring a flip-up style screen that will also complicate buying decisions when it arrives.

Update: HTC spokesman Troy Edwards offered some thoughtful tweets in response to this editorial:

And in response to a question about whether a 2.0-based Vive might sell at a tier above the current system, Edwards responded:

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  • cirby

    Last week, on Upload VR: “HTC Vive Needs A Major Price Cut To Stay Competitive”

    This week, on Upload VR: “Don’t buy a Vive because they dropped the price, because, er, we were wrong, I guess.”

    • Ian Hamilton

      I wrote both editorials to which you refer, and in that first one: “I want to see Vive dropping to at least $600 this year taking advantage of the new 2.0 base station technology from Valve. Ideally, HTC would roll out out Vive Trackers to consumers at the same time with a host of profit-driving accessories.”

      I’m glad to see HTC hitting the $600 price. This is good for VR. I think it is important also that people are aware that 2.0 lighthouses are right around the corner.”

      • cirby

        Yeah, you put that caveat in, but it’s still the clickbait headline that’s important.

        The 2.0 lighthouses will show up either way, and the price drop will be baked in by that point. The price won’t be going back up for a standard Vive system. And you know the cool part? The old hardware won’t stop working the day the new tech comes out…

        • Ian Hamilton

          I write headlines hoping people click on the story, but it is important that when people click the headline and read the story they find an article supporting that headline. I’ve done so in both cases.

        • RationalThought

          Yes but they will have to buy the new 2.0 product which I believe is the point. Context is important. The 2.0 lighthouses in a 600 dollar package is competitive….. a 600 dollar drop with likely 150-200 plus 2.0 lighthouse boxes bought separately is guess what….back up to 800 and his point about competitiveness, remains.

        • The 2.0 Lighthouses will show up, but your $600 Vive will not work with them even if you buy them separately.

          • cirby

            The Vive will still work with the software, though – while the 2.0 lighthouses will be better in some ways, I’m not planning on upgrading the whole system until a higher-res display lands.

          • koenshaku

            Yeah better if you are playing in a warehouse wirelessly. Most people in a home or apartment will not even take advantage of them. With just 2 current gen lighthouses they can track 4 HTC Vive systems without issues until people start bumping into each other. I don’t think they will have any issues what so ever with additional trackers.

        • saluk

          The issue is, you can’t upgrade tracking without upgrading everything. A theoretical 2.0 headset will still work with existing trackers, but 2.0 trackers don’t work on any of the old hardware. I can see troy’s point that perhaps 2.0 isn’t that exciting for most consumers. At the same time, 2.0 is close and that HAS to mean new headsetsare also close. Perhaps the “new” headsets will identical except for the 2.0 tracking, but I still think it’s a bit of an awkward time to buy.

      • mirak

        It’s important for people like me or you, but I think that the average consumer “wants it now”, and doesn’t really look forward.

        The truth is that the current 1st gen even bought now, have a lot of improvement margin, that will come from improvement of VR games.

        Even if I am happy with what I have now, I don’t see how I could recommend VR to the average gamer consumer, if games don’t improve a lot.

        • Mane Vr

          I agree with this I am always telling people to wait on buying an hmd solely because the games just isn’t where they need to be. I plated a lot of good game but yet to play a great one which I could say is worth the buy

          • mirak

            When I say I would not recommend it, it doesn’t mean I would prevent someone of buying it.

          • Mane Vr

            I don’t mean i go out my way but i have friends ask me if it’s a good time to just in mu answer so far has been no. The games just isn’t there

          • mirak

            I say yes, because it works, and I am happy with what I have now, but also say they have to check their expectations, like with the games availables or the hardware to buy.

            Like they would do before buying a new gaming platform, pc or console.

      • NooYawker

        Your next headline should be buy the Oculus because they’re NOT updating their sensors.
        It’s a little click baity.

        • Ian Hamilton

          This is a good point. A main driver of this editorial is that we know new stuff is in the works for SteamVR, so I’m informing readers about those things. We don’t know if or how Oculus will change its system going forward so there’s much less to tell readers about those buying decisions heading into 2018.

          • We’ll probably have to wait till October to get any articles about Oculus. They’re probably keeping wraps on their plans until they have their conference.

          • NooYawker

            I’ve already read multiple articles about all the stuff Facebook is working on. I don’t think they’re keeping anything under wraps.

        • RationalThought

          I would argue that the cost of the Rift is commiserate with your point right? If the Vive had a price drop or sale of 400 also…….I wonder if this article would be completely different. (Likely it would be)

    • wheeler

      Yeah … I mean I agree that most people should wait a bit before purchasing a new VR system at this point, but it seems out of line when this website is constantly pushing the Rift.

      • Doctor Bambi

        There certainly seems to be a lot of positive press around Oculus from UploadVR as of late, but I think that is more indicative of the times as opposed to any personal bias they may hold. A year ago when Oculus didn’t have tracked controllers, and didn’t have roomscale it very much felt like UploadVR was writing negative articles on Rift all the time and Vive was the golden child. A SteamVR headset will no doubt turn the tides again in favor of the newer technology when it gets here.

  • Ian Hamilton

    I do write headlines hoping people click on the story, but it is important to me that when people click the headline they find an article supporting that headline. I’ve done so in both cases.

  • mirak

    I think the Vive and the Rift are similar to a new gen console that just came out with games that don’t really use well the hardware.

    Over time people that bought the console, still feel the console is improving, because the developpers are using the hardware better and better and create better games.

    That’s why future hardware upgrades of the Vive and Rift should not matter that much, because most of the improvements will happen on the software side, and the Vive 1st gen will get better over time just because the software will get better.

    • NooYawker

      No one buying gen 1 anything should be worried about next gen. If they are, don’t buy 1st gen products.

      • mirak

        This applies to any current gen stuff.

    • Justos

      While true, I have to point out that Oculus is really killing it with AAA quality games on their store. If anyone is to get to a point where the platform feels lush with content, I say Oculus will get there first.

      • mirak

        Not with fallout doom vfr skyrim, and probably not the valve games.

        • Justos

          Oh, games that haven’t even been released or have 0 details about them. Great counter!

  • Phil_NYC

    Is there a material difference between the two lighthouses? I have the first gen ones and they have been working flawlessly.

    • care package

      Of course. Didn’t you read the article? Not only will it increase it to pinpoint accuracy, but they’ll dramatically increase your sense or presence since you can put more in and increase your play space (that no one has).

      • NooYawker

        I have a large man cave for my computer and nerd stuff, so I have a fairly large play space. That’s why I bought the Vive, to get the full effect of what VR was made for. At least, the full effect Gen 1 can give you.

    • The 2.0 lighthouses have less moving parts, are cheaper to manufacture, and work in a way that allows you to have more than 2 of them in a room. Meaning you can expand your area, don’t need blocking curtains if you have multiple VR setups close to each other, and you can use more Lighthouses to cover possible tracking blind spots due to the layout of your room and furniture.

      But while controllers with 2.0 sensors will work with a 1.0 Lighthouse, the Vive’s 1.0 sensors in the HMD and controller will not work with 2.0 lighthouses.

  • RationalThought

    Seriously….stop this camp mentality. It doesn’t serve any of us or the VR product’s themselves. I recommended my friend wait on the Rift and Vive for same reasons. 2018 will bring new products for both most likely. Either new hand controls and 2.0 lighthouse for Vive or new rift headset….etc etc. My friend bought a rift because the price point was simply too attractive and it came with a TON of games. This Vive drop is not that…….600 bucks with new controller and base stations around the corner that will need to be bought and less games for free is not so attractive. If they want to remain competitive and keep people from waiting….they need a lower drop and then make up that drop with cost for controllers and new 2.0 bases. 600 for the vive WITH the new controllers and base stations is competitive…..

    • mirak

      I do the same for friends to optimise their investement.
      But on a public website dedicated to VR, it should rather avoid speculations and suggest what is available right now.
      Because when people want to buy something for Christmas they don’t give a shit
      of the next gen, they need to buy something for Christmas.

    • NooYawker

      That makes no sense. You think he oculus isn’t going to release any updated hardware so it makes it a more attractive purchase?

      • RationalThought

        I think the price point and amount of free games and software makes it a more attractive purchase for some, (especially those that want VR right now and cheaply). It did for my friend. 399 and 7 free games was enough for him. I am fairly certain both will have new product’s out late 2018 and recommended waiting for 2nd Gen but couldn’t argue when he said it was a great deal. IT IS. 600 bucks for a Vive is a better deal than last week but not as great a deal in all fairness.

  • care package

    This article sounds like it was written by your every day fanboy trying to talk people into the Vive, using weak bullet points. For one “As a result it is way more convenient” is purely subjective. One might find being able to plug into USB as more convenient. The new lighthouse will increase the ‘pinpoint’ accuracy even more, including increase your sense of presence DRAMATICALLY! lol. Ok man.

    So far I’ve heard nothing but complaints from people who keep trying to max out their play space and can’t due to the current limitations. Hopefully the new versions fix this (sarcasm off).

    • Joan Villora Jofré

      It can be true that presence increases with accuracy; the current generation of HTC Vive gives me a lot and I can not think of any better reason than it may be for the accuracy of the tracking.

      • Justos

        Lighthouse and Constellation feel the exact same in a similar play space. This ‘dramatic laser accuracy’ point is fanboy bullshit.

        As an owner who sold his vive and kept a rift, i cant help but see right through these false claims. Warehouse scale is the only real advantage here.

        • Joan Villora Jofré

          Not false and I don’t have Vive. I don’t know how you sense. You don’t know how I sense.

    • Doctor Bambi

      At least he did state in the title that this is an editorial piece, but I have to agree, warehouse sized tracking is pretty irrelevant to the layman who’s set up VR in their home. Perhaps the more important factor would be the ability to use more than 2 lighthouses to reduce occlusion even further, but that doesn’t seem to be a very big problem for current Vive users anyway.

  • skyrimer

    This is absurd, many improvements will also come for Oculus too, we have seen the inside out tracking prototype and oculus Connect is around the corner, and we can expect the same kind of improvements for Oculus in 2018, yet you never made an editorial called “why would you like to pause before buying and oculus rift”, then I see the Killing Floor ads and I may start understanding why you want people to not buy the Vive.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Oculus have said time and again, there will be no new hardware to replace Rift for the next couple of years. Their focus currently is on dropping the entry price of VR and building compelling content for the current hardware.

      SteamVR on the other hand is a different story. We’ve heard commitments on new controllers, new tracking tech, and a new headset from LG before the year is out. It might behoove readers to be aware of that before they invest such a large amount of money into an entertainment device.

  • Peter Laurent

    Vive trackers have been available to buy for a few months, there’s just very few games which make use of them for now and they’re very expensive especially considering you’d need three of them for foot and waist tracking

    • Ian Hamilton

      The Trackers have been available specifically for developers, not consumers. I’d need to check but I believe these units use the older 1.0 tracking tech. This means they may not work with the newer lighthouses. If you decided to buy a new SteamVR headset next year with new lighthouses and controllers I believe those lighthouses wouldn’t work with the current Trackers. You could probably just buy the headset and the controllers though and keep the current lighthouses.

      • Peter Laurent

        The trackers are on the vive store page next to the deluxe audio strap, anyone can buy them. They work fine with the current 1.0 tracking and as Troy Edwards said the new 2.0 tracking will be aimed at businesses anyway

        • Ian Hamilton

          I might be missing it but I don’t think the Trackers are listed in the same area as the other accessories. Check here: https://www.vive.com/us/vive-tracker/

          And here:

          https://www.vive.com/us/vive-tracker-for-developer/

          • Peter Laurent

            Ohh that’s weird, I’m in NZ and they’re available here on the accessories page. I’d have assumed it was the same everywhere but on the equivalent US page it’s listed as coming soon.
            Nice job HTC haha

          • Ian Hamilton

            Oh interesting! And weird.

        • Gerald Terveen

          Don’t get what Troy Edwards said there wrong – the benefits of the tracking optimization (multiple lighthouses) might be mostly limited to professional use cases, but the Lighthouse 2.0 system is for everyone as it reduces production costs A LOT and also gives us lower weight, smaller units etc.

  • Wait if you want but while you do the rest of us are having a ball in VR.

  • Mane Vr

    the price drop is a very good thing and beyond welcome. while I am a rift owner I want to c vr as a whole success so bring the cost of entry down is awesome the next step is to get away from the idea of the games having to be built from to ground up to be vr only. while there are things that has to be thought of in the design stage of making a game vr platform holders did themselves a disservice with this cause what most gamers heard was does except your favorite game in VR anytime soon. so now that price is coming down they got to do more to get peoples beloved games into vr

  • craylon

    imho every day not owning a vr device is a wasted day. do buy a headset now!

    also imho, the more people buying 1st gen the more people will buy 2nd gen, opening up a used 1st gen hmd market that brings in a ton of people that would rather buy a used set at around $300 then shelling out $600. I would even guess that a 2nd gen release could increase the overall installbase by around 25%

  • Gerald Terveen

    “The new 2.0 version of Valve’s SteamVR Tracking may increase your sense of presence dramatically though.”

    Yes … totally true … if you live in a warehouse, otherwise it will be a minor improvement and that sentence it totally blown out of proportions.

    Buying today might mean the headset is slightly heavier and it might not be able to take advantage of the benefits of the new Lighthouses when in a warehouse setting … but given that Warehouse-VR-LAN-Parties are still rare enough we can maybe ignore that for a year or two.

    Right now you get to play VR for a whole winter if you get it, you might totally miss out on if you wait for a minimal benefit. Of course we might also see screen updates with the LG, but with no arrival date on that I wouldn’t want to skip a whole winter for it.

    • Icebeat

      My Vive was one year taking dust so, a winter, sure no problem. Vive and VR in general is not so awesome expedience right now that you need to have it. Now I am using it to play DCS world.

      • Gerald Terveen

        Seems the experience was really awesome – you did not have any content yet the initial experience was good enough for you to keep such an expensive toy around just in case …

        That said – first consider the content you want to play, then buy the hardware. Buying the hardware for the hardware makes little sense I agree.

  • Bobdole

    holy cow, i m almost speechless…. you got me, i got click-baited… i m not coming back here for a while…

  • There’s another factor to consider: new Vive stations can’t be used with current Vive. So of course the release of the new station will have to come with the release of a new headset (if not v2, at least v1.5).

  • Matt Thomas

    Not sure why this discussion section turned so negative. We have both the Rift and the Vive at our office. They both are quality products and I enjoy reading any article like this letting us know what is on the horizon. I love showing off our VR systems, but council my friends to wait till the next generation to pick up a VR system if they don’t have one right now. There are to many large changes coming up. Cordless headsets will be a huge increase…that umbilical cord drives me nutz. Multiple lighthouses will be epic if you have room to walk some distance…the hands free controllers coming will definitely increase immersion.

    The price drop is definitely needed and if you don’t want to wait a significant amount of time by all means jump in the deep end with the rest of us, but if you have some patients my vote would be to wait till the next big roll out or if Valve finally drops one of their fully realized single player titles they teased. I’ll definitely be spending some weekend time at the office when those arrive. Gabe…can you hear me…we are still waiting on Portal VR…Gabe?