Anyone that’s been following the virtual reality (VR) industry for the past three or four years has been here before. A new release from Oculus VR quickly becomes the most talked about, anticipated event within the community. The best example of this to date was the launch of pre-orders for the second development kit (DK2) for the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD), which saw the entire industry descend into months of frantic email checking for shipment updates and a glorious period of deliveries. All of that, however, is nothing compared to what will take place later this week.
The consumer version of the Oculus Rift, a product that’s around five years in the making by this point, will be going on pre-order for 20 different countries at 08:00 PST on 6th January 2016, kicking off the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in style. Shipments, as we’ve known for a while now, will start up at some point in the first quarter of this year. In other words, fans are now just weeks away from getting their hands on the first full version of the device.
Excitement is understandably palpable, but it’s important to remember some vital aspects before you lay down your order. So let VRFocus take you through some last minute things to check over to make sure you’re prepared for the launch of consumer VR.
Easily the most important factor to consider is your PC. If you’re not a VR or videogame enthusiast there’s a good chance that your PC isn’t up to the standard required to run the Oculus Rift. Below is the recommended specification for the kit, provided by Oculus VR itself.
– NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
– Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
– 8GB+ RAM
– Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
– 3x USB 3.0 ports + 1x USB 2.0 port
– Windows 7 SP1 or newer
Now, if you’re not the type that knows how to build a PC that will meet this spec for yourself, don’t worry; Oculus VR is making it a little easier for you. The company has what it calls Oculus Ready PCs. These are essentially a set of rigs from Asus, Dell and Alienware that have all been marked as ‘Oculus Ready’, meaning you can pick them up without worrying about those specs, safe in the knowledge they’ll accommodate your new Oculus Rift. Release details for these units hasn’t yet been revealed, but expect information soon.
That leads us swiftly on to price. We won’t know how much the Oculus Rift will cost until pre-orders launch tomorrow. You can do a little working out to get a rough idea, however, thanks to Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe. A while back, Iribe stated that a new Oculus Rift and a PC ready to run it would cost around $1,500 USD. The cheapest Oculus Ready PC from Asus starts at $949, while other manufactures start at $999. This gives you a pretty good idea of the ballpark figure for an Oculus Rift, and you can decide whether being one of the first to enter consumer VR is worth the tag. But before you make up your mind, there are a few other things to consider.
You might be scratching your head wondering how you’ll actually control a VR experience on the Oculus Rift. For now, the answer is simple; an Xbox One controller. But don’t head out to pick up a new pad, as Oculus VR will be including one in the box for you. Every Oculus Rift will come with an Xbox One controller, and you can expect this to be the primary method of controlling VR videogames at least until the launch of Oculus Touch, the company’s position-tracked controller, in H2 2016. We’ll save that explanation for a little later.
In other words, the bit you really care about. If you pre-order an Oculus Rift tomorrow (or any day before it launches), you’ll get two of its most anticipated titles absolutely free. The first is CCP Games’ EVE: Valkyrie, a multiplayer space combat experience that’s long been a showcase for the Oculus Rift. The second – which will be available for anyone that buys the Oculus Rift outright – is Lucky’s Tale, a third-person platform experience from Playful.
And there’s plenty more where that came from; Oculus VR is prepping a massive amount of exclusive content for the Oculus Rift, including Insomniac Games’ Edge of Nowhere, Crytek’s The Climb, Gunfire Games’ Chronos and Harmonix’s Rock Band VR. There’s no shortage of content coming to the Oculus Rift for the launch period and beyond, and that’s without mentioning the incredible amount of titles coming from indie developers.
If all of this is to your liking, then you might well want to consider pre-ordering an Oculus Rift tomorrow. But that is one last crucial factor to talk about.
It might be the first and arguably biggest, but the Oculus Rift is far from the only VR launch this year. Next month pre-orders are going to open for another PC-based kit, the HTC Vive, before its April 2016 launch. Made in partnership with Valve, this exciting HMD looks to offer a few more features over the Oculus Rift out of the gate, the most important being the SteamVR position tracked controllers.
These handheld devices give players ‘hand presence’ in VR, allowing them to reach into virtual worlds and interact with objects in a realistic way. The Oculus Rift will be offering a very similar experience when Oculus Touch launches later this year but, until then, the HTC Vive is your only means of playing some titles that were intended for motion controls. Still, there’s plenty more to learn about the HTC Vive too, including price, so don’t jump to conclusions on favouring it over the Oculus Rift just yet.
Then there’s PlayStation VR, the upcoming HMD for PlayStation 4. Also due to arrive in H1 2016, you might consider this a more accessible, affordable entry point into VR. Price hasn’t been revealed, but the cost of the console and HMD will surely be cheaper than that of an Oculus Rift and a PC. Just how much that will hurt this new contender in the long run remains to be seen, but for now PlayStation VR offers a very similar content library to both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive with its own motion control solution with PlayStation Move.
That’s just a short run down of factors to consider before pre-ordering an Oculus Rift tomorrow. There’s no doubt that this leading HMD is going to pave the way for VR’s future, but does that mean it’s the right kit for you? You have just over 24 hours to decide.