The competition between HTC’s Vive and Facebook’s Rift is a closely watched battle, with the two leading PC-powered headsets racing to expand upon the groundwork laid by the SteamVR and Oculus platforms in 2016.
It seems the next step for each company is to support a wide range of accessories that can enhance a virtual world with 1:1 tactile feedback. Despite the excitement for a range of accessories compatible with the forthcoming Vive Tracker, Oculus seems to be coming out in front, at least initially.
Jason Rubin, the vice president in charge of content at Oculus, tweeted over the weekend that the imminently launching Rock Band VR game the company funded with developer Harmonix is the “first major tracked accessory VR game.” For $70, the game comes with a guitar to which an Oculus Touch controller attaches. This combo delivers a more authentic experience than has ever been possible before with music rhythm games, with the feel of a realistic guitar in your hands while playing the game in front of a crowd in VR.
This month Oculus released guidelines and 3D models of the Touch controllers “to help you develop accessories for Oculus Touch Controllers.” This likely makes Rock Band just the first in a series of accessories for the Rift headset using an Oculus Touch controller for positional tracking.
HTC is also working with developers on the Vive Tracker that has already been shown with a range of accessories including guns, phones and even a baseball bat. The Tracker is expected to sell for around $100, with no word on included accessories or games that might work with the unit out of the box.
This adds some interesting new dynamics to the decision buyers are faced with when deciding which VR system to buy. After a price cut this month, Oculus is now selling the Rift with a pair of Touch controllers for $600. The competing HTC Vive’s core system remains $800, and HTC “doesn’t see the need to cut the price.”
An extra camera for the Rift is around $60. While this Rift setup requires a plethora of open USB slots on your PC, this third camera (in addition to the two provided in the core $600 bundle) allows the Rift’s system to track smaller but comparable ‘room-scale’ spaces. Add $70 for Rock Band and its guitar, which attaches to one of the Oculus Touch controllers, and the total for all of the above is still slightly lower than the base cost of the Vive. The Rift is also bundled with a number of freebie games, as is Vive, but the Rift has access to the content on both the Oculus Store and Steam. Unless using a hack, the Vive can’t access the great content on the Oculus Store.
While we adore the reliability and versatility of the SteamVR Tracking technology upon which the Vive relies — and the fact that the Vive uses up only a few ports on your PC — this price difference between the systems, inclusion of integrated audio and superior ergonomics of the Touch controllers could mean Vive will have an uphill battle in 2017.