Oculus still hasn't announced a launch date for its Rift virtual reality headset, but now we know when preorders are opening: this Wednesday, January 6th, at 11AM ET. The news appeared in a blog post this morning, and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will answer more questions in a Reddit AMA on Wednesday at 9PM ET. Unfortunately, we also have no idea how much the Rift will cost — this is, effectively, an announcement of an announcement. An Oculus spokesperson has confirmed that pricing and ship date will be shared when preorders open.
The consumer Rift headset's release window was first confirmed in mid-2015, when we learned it would ship in the first quarter of 2016. Luckey said a few weeks ago that preorders would open "soon after [the] new year." A motion controller called the Oculus Touch was originally supposed to follow the Rift in the first half of 2016, but that was recently delayed in order to focus on improving its ergonomics and tracking accuracy. At launch, the Rift will ship with an Xbox One controller.
"Probably for at least two years, VR is going to be primarily for gamers and enthusiasts."
For now, the Oculus Rift will remain out of reach for most casual buyers. A computer capable of powering the device runs around $1,000, and Luckey has said that for "probably for at least two years, VR is going to be primarily for gamers and enthusiasts that are willing to invest in high-end machines." HTC's Vive headset, currently set to be released in April, is likely to be similarly demanding, although Sony's PlayStation VR runs on a standard PlayStation 4 console. All three headsets are likely to cost several hundred dollars at least, although no price has been announced for the Vive or PlayStation VR.
Still, the Rift's launch will be a huge leap for consumer virtual reality, which has remained on the edge of release for years. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Oculus released its first development kit in March of 2013. Facebook acquired the company a year later for $2 billion, and the Rift quickly faced competition from Sony and HTC's own high-end headsets. Oculus also partnered with Samsung for the Gear VR, a $99 smartphone-powered headset that was released in late 2015. Unlike the Gear VR, the Rift tracks users through three-dimensional space. Using an external computer allows for more graphical power in a lighter package, although it also requires a wired connection to a PC.
Next to the headset hardware, the biggest question for VR remains how to build a compelling catalog of games, videos, and other experiences. Oculus will ship Rift preorders with a copy of the highly anticipated EVE: Valkyrie, and all Rifts will come bundled with platformer Lucky's Tale. Other Rift launch (or near-launch) titles include horror game Edge of Nowhere, hack-n-slash RPG Chronos, and space survival game Adrift. Large parts of the Gear VR catalog may also migrate over; standouts Darknet and Dead Secret, for example, are coming to Oculus Rift. And thanks to a partnership with Microsoft, Oculus Rift users will be able to stream non-VR games from the Xbox One.
Without a release date, though, it's been difficult for developers to make clear announcements — something that should be changing soon.
Update January 4th 11:40AM ET: Added statement from Oculus.