Oculus Rift hands-on: Don't expect to make money from virtual reality if you're an indie retailer - PC Retail

Oculus Rift hands-on: Don't expect to make money from virtual reality if you're an indie retailer

PCR editor Dominic Sacco shares his views
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PCR editor Dominic Sacco shares his views on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and the selling opportunities for retailers, after testing out the device.

There's no doubting the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is a superb bit of kit - but I'm not sure it's going to be a hit for PC stores and independent resellers when its consumer version launches (reports suggest it could be next year).

I spent ten minutes with the dev kit version of the headset at the PCR Boot Camp North expo and conference this week on Network Group's stand, and it blew me away.

Gaming for me is all about escapism - and when you put that headset on you are literally plugged directly into another world. It's all very The Matrix. It's easy to forget you're actually sitting in an expo hall next to a computer, when in fact your brain is telling you you're walking through a corridor, flying through space or running through the woods to escape Slender Man.

The Oculus Rift offers such an immersive experience and I'm convinced it's the next level of development for the PC gaming industry. 

However, let's not forget that huge networking site we all use to take pictures of friends, or what we ate last night, bought Oculus earlier this year. It wants to go far beyond gaming.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this year after buying Oculus: "After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home."

"Let the major chains and etailers fight it out over price - indie retailers can be the ones powering the Oculus, selling the PCs for it and offering expert advice."

Imagine watching the World Cup final in Brazil from the comfort of your own home. Forget watching TV - you could put on the Oculus Rift and watch the game as if you're a part of the crowd.

It's also great for those who may be unable to get out and about easily, allowing them to fly around and explore worlds easily while sitting down.

Oculus Rift is going to be massive. It has the potential to become a truly mainstream tech device that has the power to offer experiences and change lives. This means the Amazons of the world will no doubt be selling it as low as they can - much like games consoles such as Xbox One and PS4.

Oculus has already said it wants to 'stay within the $200 to $400 price range', but whether it costs £150 or £350, it's going to be incredibly difficult for independent PC stores and smaller etailers to make a decent margin on it.

That doesn't mean it's redundant for our market. Far from it. Consumers will need a computer to power the Oculus Rift (at the moment, anyway) - and who better to buy one from than their local trustworthy computer shop?

It also offers fantastic marketing opportunities. Entice customers into your store by letting them try the Oculus out for free, offer bundle deals with the Oculus and a new PC or even advise them on the best compatible games to try out using the device. This should also encourage word of mouth (and make you the coolest store in town).

So let the major chains and etailers fight it out over price - indie retailers can be the ones powering the Oculus, selling the PCs for it and offering expert advice.

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