By: Nick Gambino
The Oculus Rift is finally available for pre-order after many years of development and hype. They went on sale on January 6th and units start shipping on March 28th.
For those who have been waiting years to be able to experience virtual reality at a level of quality only matched by Sci-Fi films, this is an important moment. While we have had many stop-gaps in the way of VR headsets like the Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR (made by Oculus) it’s the Oculus Rift that we’ve been dreaming about since we were kids.
For the past three years Oculus has been making prototypes and development kits giving us a glimpse into a 360-degree reality outside of our own. But it wasn’t until now that they’ve released a consumer model.
While the announcement of its release is certainly exciting it doesn’t come without its downsides. First is the price. We’d been led to believe that the price would range somewhere between $300 and $400, making it affordable. After all that was the plan all along, virtual reality for the masses.
Instead the price tag is a whopping $599. That’s almost double what a gaming console costs. While that won’t necessarily break the bank, it did catch some by surprise. Oculus founder, Palmer Luckey addressed this at CES a couple of weeks ago.
“It is expensive. The Rift was designed to prioritize quality over cost. We wanted to make the Rift something that everybody would want before we make it something that everyone can afford,” Luckey explained.
That’s a good call in my opinion. Too long have we experienced VR tech that’s mediocre at best. I recall some time around 1998 I had a chance to play a virtual reality first-person shooter game at a fair. I walked away from that experience unimpressed and discouraged about the future of virtual reality.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to help host the Oculus Rift station at the Sundance Film Festival. I was so impressed by what I saw that my love for VR was rekindled.
So if Oculus wants to jack up the Rift a couple hundred dollars to make sure the tech is right and people are blown away, so be it. For those out there who have a Samsung phone and want to try out VR without doling out a pretty penny on the Rift you can buy the Samsung Gear VR for a mere $99.99. I’ve had the chance to try it out and it’s amazing. Seriously.
So the price isn’t really a problem for me. My only gripe is the requirement of a souped-up Windows PC to power the thing. With the requirements they list, if you don’t have the right computer you’ll be spending somewhere in the realm of $900 on top of the Rift’s $599.
It’s not currently compatible with Mac (which is what I have) or Linux. $1500 is just not worth it to me. I’ll have to wait until it’s compatible with the Mac.
Now, they’ve already announced that they’re working on the second version of the Oculus Rift to be released in about 2 years. So I’m sure just like any other tech device out there it will become more compatible and more accessible as time goes on.
You can pre-order the Oculus Rift at oculus.com. They start shipping on March 28th but it looks like if you’ve waited until now to order, you’ll get yours in July. I guess they’re popular. The Rift will also be available in limited locations in April.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.