Oculus Rift is here – but it’s for hardcore gamers only

The $600 Virtual Reality device has been made available for pre-order, but is it worth splashing out on?

Peter Iantorno January 7, 2016

It has been a long time coming, but finally the Oculus Rift has been made available to pre-order, with shipping starting from March 28.

The hotly anticipated Virtual Reality device will come with built-in headphones and mic, sensor, the Oculus Remote, an Xbox One controller and two games: Lucky’s Tale and Eve: Valkyrie.

The $599 price tag is significantly higher than first expected, after Oculus founder Palmer Luckey had initially suggested that it would be pitched “roughly in the $350 ballpark”. In response the criticism from angry potential customers, Luckey apologised for the breakdown in communication but stood by the pricing.

“I handled the messaging poorly,” he said in a Reddit AMA. “It is expensive, but for the $599 you spend, you get a lot more than spending $599 on pretty much any other consumer electronics devices – phones that cost $599 cost a fraction of that to make, same with mid-range TVs that cost $599.”

So, will the Oculus Rift be worth the steep starting price? Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg certainly thinks so, but then again he would – Facebook owns the company.

“When you put on Oculus, you'll feel like you instantly teleported into adventures like deep-sea diving, piloting a starfighter or playing in a band on stage,” wrote Zuckerberg in a post announcing the launch. “More than 100 virtual reality games and other experiences are coming this year. And long term, I believe virtual reality has the potential to change the way we live, work and communicate in many ways. Today is an important step towards that future.”

While Zuckerberg’s clearly self-promotional comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, there’s no denying the fact that early testers of the Rift have been impressed. However, the fact is, no matter how Zuckerberg or Luckey try to spin it, this debut generation of Oculus Rift is strictly for hardcore gamers only.

Why? It’s not so much the $599 price tag, but the gaming-spec PC that is required to run the hardware. In the pre-order announcement, Oculus outlines the recommended specifications to get “the full Rift experience”, and they are most certainly for powerful PCs only.

For anyone whose PC doesn’t make the grade (or is running an Apple or Linux system – they’re not supported by the Rift at the moment), the company will be offering an Oculus-Ready PC bundle, which will include the headset and a powerful enough computer. Starting at $1,499, these will be available for pre-order in February.

Then there’s the fact that the Rift is only available to pre-order in 20 countries so far and the UAE – or anywhere in the Middle East for that matter – is not one of them, which means getting one on our shores could prove difficult and expensive.

Our advice? Unless you’re a hardcore gamer with money to burn, wait for the second generation. Luckey confirmed in his AMA that the Rift’s lifespan would be “Somewhere between a console and a mobile phone, much closer to a mobile phone.” So by this time next year, version two will almost certainly be on the horizon anyway.