After making us wait more than 16 months, Oculus finally clued us into some more details on their Touch motion controllers for the Rift virtual reality headset.
Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe announced onstage at the company’s third annual Oculus Connect developer conference that Touch will be arriving December 6 for $199 with pre-orders going live October 10.
The Touch controllers will also include a second camera sensor. We also learned that room-scale play will be possible with a third sensor which will retail for $79.
Two titles will be bundled with the headset. VR Sports and The Unspoken will launch with the controllers. There are dozens of new titles that will be available at launch for the controllers.
When Touch was announced last year it was originally slated to be released alongside the headset, but the release was pushed back to “the second half of 2016,” which later was refined to Q4 of 2016. It’s been rough goings for Oculus in terms of launching hardware this year. The Rift, which finally shipped in March, was met with a painfully long backorder queue that left people who pre-ordered the headset within minutes stuck waiting several weeks to receive their headset. This led to a good amount of hostility directed towards the company that didn’t make for great PR.
Oculus has hopefully learned from the botched Rift rollout and will be able to ship Touch in volume at launch. But for $199, in addition to the $599 initial price of the Rift, who is going to buy these fancy controllers? Oculus may have the advantage of selling its products to a lot of early adopter techies who will throw down $199 without thinking twice, but are the few real consumers on the platform going to invest another two hundred bucks into their VR habit?
The upgrade in gameplay with the addition is less incremental than you may think, the Touch launch is essentially a relaunch of the console. The positionally-tracked motion controllers bring your hands and body into VR. The Rift shipped with an Xbox One controller which allowed users more complex input but it restricted the immersion of the headset and left some feeling like they had just bought an expensive 3D monitor. With Touch, the experience totally changes.
People who have tried the HTC Vive understand the power that these motion controllers bring to the platform, Oculus shipping without the Touch controllers left room for HTC to grow and eat away at its brand power and today the Vive is the headset of choice for many developers and a lot of early consumers.
What’s unfortunate is that at this point consumers who have dropped the cash on a souped-up PC and headset are kind of being held hostage because without purchasing the Touch controllers, it’s likely that they’ll be boxed out from some of the most premium content coming to the VR platform that they were so early to support.
For what it’s worth, the extra time spent on the Touch controllers does not seem to have been in vain. These things are hands-down my favorite VR controllers. The ergonomics are fantastic and they feel a bit less geeky than the HTC Vive or PS VR wands. The sensor setup is less sophisticated than the Vive and leads to some occlusion when you’re reaching behind you and your body is getting between the sensors and your controller, but overall they’re a great product.
Again, Touch pre-orders go live next week and ship December 6.