We finally know the price and release date for the Oculus Rift, the highly-anticipated virtual reality headset that's been in development since its landmark Kickstarter campaign in 2012.
Facebook-owned Oculus VR on Wednesday announced the Rift headset will release on March 28 and cost $600.
But, in reality, operating the Oculus will actually cost much more than that.
Last May, Oculus announced the technical requirements for running the Oculus Rift: it will require a high-end PC with a powerful graphics card. And it won't work for any Apple (Mac) or Linux (SteamOS) computers, unfortunately.
"Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows," Oculus' chief architect Atman Binstock wrote in a blog post. "We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline."
We always knew the first-generation Oculus Rift would require a computer to work, but it's disappointing that it won't work across all platforms just yet. And furthermore, you'll have to own a PC with a beefy graphics card if you want a quality experience; beefy graphics cards cost anywhere from $400 to $800.
After several decades of people scoffing at the idea of mainstream virtual reality, the Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign in 2012 re-sparked interest in the technology when gaming enthusiast Palmer Luckey promised a better VR experience that was also accessible and affordable for most people.
Luckey's original Kickstarter surpassed its goal in less than 24 hours on its way to raising over $2.4 million. It was endorsed by countless gaming executives, including Valve CEO Gabe Newell and "Doom" creator John Carmack. It became an even bigger deal when Facebook saw its potential and acquired the company for $2 billion in March 2014.
Over that time, Oculus built three official development kits for the Rift headset, but everyone wanted to know when they could expect the first consumer version to ship. The company finally answered that question earlier this month, promising the first units of the Oculus Rift would ship early next year.
Unfortunately, just because it's officially called the "consumer version" doesn't mean the first-generation Rift is for "all consumers." Due to these technical requirements and restrictions, it sounds like the Oculus Rift will only appeal to hardcore gamers at this point, who already own a gaming rig that can handle the computational load.
Personally, I was looking forward to buying the first-generation Oculus Rift, but I probably won't at this point. I'm a big gaming enthusiast but only a casual gamer — I don't have a crazy setup like a massive computer tower with three monitors, I just have a MacBook Pro. I would need to buy a completely separate PC just to play around with the Rift.
Here's what they say you'll need to actually use this thing:
- Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
- Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- 8GB+ RAM
- Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
That's not going to come anywhere near approaching the average user's home computer system. And as a result, it's going to leave a lot of people who want to experience virtual reality out of the loop.
Of course, this is not what Oculus wants, either.
Most virtual reality companies say their goal is to get their VR products untethered from computers to simply become plug-and-play experiences like many living room game consoles. But that future isn't quite here yet, and unfortunately, that means many people — non-gamers and casual gamers included — will be missing out on the first wave of the Oculus Rift.
On the bright side, there are still several other virtual reality headsets coming later this year, including the HTC Vive and Sony's PlayStation VR. It will be interesting to learn those systems' requirements as well.