Oculus Rift virtual reality headset finally available for pre-order – at $600

Orlovsky And Oculus Rift

The consumer version of Facebook’s Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is finally available for pre-order, costing £499 in the UK and $599 in the US.

The headset, which was originally crowdfunded in 2012, will be one of the first full VR headsets available, beating Valve and HTC’s Vive VR and Sony’s PlayStation VR to market. On its official blogpost, Oculus states that shipping will begin on 28 March, but a subsequent press release states that headsets will be available “in limited locations at select retailers” starting in April.

Buyers will require a powerful computer to run the headset. Graphics chip manufacturer Nvidia has suggested that only 13m PCs or less than 1% of the global PC market will be capable of running virtual reality applications on headsets like the Rift and Vive. A bundle that includes a computer capable of running the Rift will also be available for pre-order in February costing $1,499.

The pre-order bundle will include an Oculus Rift headset, games Lucky’s Tale and Eve: Valkyrie, plus an Xbox One wireless controller for Windows and the Oculus Remote.

The Oculus Touch controller, which is designed for a more engaging control system, will not be included and will not ship until the second half of 2016. Pre-order customers will be first in line for the Touch Controller when it is available, however.

There has been speculation over the Rift launch price for months among VR watchers – many of whom underestimated considerably. “The wonderful Oculus subreddit community had its own straw poll which averaged out at $476.29,” said Dan Page of Opposable Games and co-organiser of the VR World Congress.

“It will be interesting to see what [the $600 price point] means for the PC market. It’s likely Oculus-exclusive titles simply aren’t going to have that big a market for a good while, although we’ve always known that was going to be true to some extent. A slow uptake on PC VR is a clear win for Sony – even if its headset is a similar price to the Rift, the PS4 already has a huge install base and new buyers will have to spend significantly less for a very good VR experience.”

Other developers agree that it could be too expensive to attract a mass consumer audience. “The price is a lot higher than we expected,” said Katie Goode whose studio Triangular Pixels specialises in VR experiences. “Of course, we’re in two minds about it. From a developer view it’s very much a new platform, but for a lot of consumers, it’s still seen as a PC accessory and it’ll be hard to convince them otherwise.

“It’s going to be very interesting where it sits in the market when other headsets launch. HTC and Sony both have a lot of experience in manufacturing, having the warehouse, factory floor and contacts they need – and Oculus has had to set everything up from fresh.”

Oculus has said that more than 20 games will be made available by Oculus Studios for the Rift this year, with more coming in the future. Highlights include Rockband VR, Edge of Nowhere and The Climb.

“This is just the beginning. We can’t wait to share more about the incredible games and experiences coming to Rift this year,” the company said in a blog post.

Facebook recently announced that all original Kickstarter backers of the Oculus Rift who pledged $275 or more, which is about 7,500 people, will also be given the consumer version of the headset.

With Facebook, Sony, Valve and HTC all pushing VR for this year, 2016 is expected to be the make-or-break year for the technology. Whether consumer adoption will be strong is unknown.

Google’s low-cost, home-made VR adapter for smartphones called Cardboard, has shown what is possible at the very low end with VR experiences. Now it is time to see what the full headsets are capable of.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 6th January 2016 17.46 Europe/London

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