Oculus Rift Starts Shipping

Reviews tout experience, lament price
Oculus Rift in box.jpg

Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality division, announced today that it has begun to ship the Oculus Rift in more than 20 countries, with Kickstarter units arriving today and the initial wave of pre-ordered Rifts set to ship mid-week.

Consumers who preordered the Oculus Rift will be alerted when the product is being prepped for shipment (one to three weeks prior to shipping), followed by another they’ve been charged for the product and the Rift is on the way.

The baseline Oculus Rift product bundle, which includes the headset, sensor, Oculus remote, requisite cables, an Xbox One Controller, and two games, retails for $599. Oculus is also offering Rift-ready PC bundles. Both options are now available for purchase via Amazon, Best Buy and the Microsoft Store.

At launch, the Rift supports a lineup of more than 30 games, including Chronos and the two titles that come with the platform --  EVE: Valkyrie, and of course Lucky’s Tale – and access to “thousands” of Facebook 360 videos, content from Jaunt VR, Oculus 360 Photos, curated fare from Vimeo, and Twitch livestreams. All Rifts also come with Oculus Dreamdeck, a batch of “VR vignettes” that introduce the user to the world of VR that was created with Epic’s Unreal Engine 4.

“We’ll be adding feature-length movies, new partners, and lots more content to Oculus Video soon,” the company said.

One experience created with UE4 is a “tiny alien world” called Farlands. Here’s a glimpse of it in a 2D, non-VR world:

News of Oculus Rift shipments were also paired with a wide range of reviews, which praised the experiences on the new platform, but also lamented pricing that could keep its reach limited in the early going.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the early reviews:

-“The Oculus rift surely might be the most momentous product launch of the decade,” proclaimed Lucas Matney on TechCrunch. He said total “immersion” falls a bit short as the space for the nose in the viewport “leaked quite a bit of light in,” and found some of the launch titles a bit gimmicky. His bottom line: “It impresses, and signals good things to come from consumer VR as a whole.”

-UploadVR noted that the Rift, and its high-end PC requirements, isn’t a “trivial investment,” but believes that, after spending more than 20 hours with it, “is worth every penny.” And the reviewer saw improvements over earlier development-kit versions that could help it gain traction beyond early adopters. “Everything from the design, to the tracking, to the display, has been improved significantly since the second development kit and the end result is a product that feels ready not just for technology enthusiasts and gamers, but for everyone.”

-The Verge’s Adi Robertson awarded the Rift a score of 8 (out of 10), giving it high marks for industrial design, some “good seated VR games,” and a “promising future game catalog” that will take advantage of the platform’s Touch controllers. On the downside , it’s expensive, is gaming-centric, and sees the lack of motion controls at launch as the  Rift’s “big weakness.”

-Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar gave the Rift a score of 84, noting that it delivers “an impressive amount of immersion” and found the headset “light and comfortable,” but also faulted the product’s high price and the need to tether  it to a high-octane PC and the potential that it could produce motion sickness in some users. Bottom line: “For most people, it might be wiser to wait until the price drops for high-end VR.”