The final version of the Oculus Rift headsets are being delivered to Kickstarter backers today, and the first pre-order shipments are going out later this week. The release brings consumer-grade virtual reality to everyday consumers for the first time.
The Rift will ship with a tracking stand to let users move around a little in 3D space, an Xbox controller to manipulate virtual worlds, and two free games. The Rift is also launching with a number of apps, including Oculus Video to watch 360-degree Facebook videos.
The Rift already has more than 30 additional games available to buy. That’s in part thanks to the four-year lead developers have had to prepare for this launch. While originally announced as a developer kit through Kickstarter, the Rift had an impressive journey to final production.
Perhaps the biggest change for Oculus was when Facebook acquired it for $2 billion in 2014. But the company has also worked with Samsung on a separate phone-based VR headset and even announced a special controller that will be joining the Rift later this year.
Early reviews for the Rift were largely positive, with many praising it as the first step in a larger revolution. However, each noted the limitations in movement and control associated with the hardware.
“Sitting down with the Rift,” The Verge’s Adi Robertson said, “feels as close to being a brain in a jar as humanly possible.”
Others pointed to the real cost of the headset, which sells for $599 alone but costs a lot more than that when considering the powerful PC you’ll need to get it up and running. While Oculus is partnering with PC makers to bring “Oculus Ready” machine bundles to market, they start at $1,500.
“The price is understandable, given that it’s leading us into an entirely new form of computing,” writes Devindra Hardawar at Engadget. “But it’s also hard to champion the Rift completely when few people can afford it. It’s the very definition of elite technology.”
And once users get over the gimmick of VR, it may be hard to justify that price point, especially with the Playstation VR coming in at just $399 (assuming you already have a Playstation 4 and its camera).
“Oculus Rift is the 2016 product you hope your neighbor buys,” said Geoffrey Fowler at the Wall Street Journal. “You’ll definitely want to try it, but there’s little reason to own one unless you’re a serious gamer.”
As HTC and Sony continue to expand the VR market, along with Microsoft and Magic Leap doing augmented reality, the calculus might change. Instead of spending $500 on a game console, $700 on a TV and owning a separate computer, users may end up spending their tech money on reality-altering headsets.
The Oculus Rift is available to order now, but people who buy today will have to wait until July for their headset. However, if you’re looking to get it a little sooner and also need a new PC, it looks like the Oculus Ready bundles will ship by May, according to Amazon.
To help figure out which headset might be right for you, Seattle-based Artefact Group put together a VR Buyer’s Guide 2016 here.