The “big” news to some in gaming this past week was the announcement of the final price and launch date for the consumer model of the Oculus Rift, one of a few virtual reality devices that look to be the next big thing in entertainment. $599 (not including shipping, sales tax or customs fees where those are charged) gets you the headset with built-in headphones and mic, sensor, an Xbox One controller and one Oculus Remote plus two games, Lucky’s Tale and access to the online multiplayer space combat game EVE: Valkyrie. Oculus plans another 100 games by the end of 2016 including at least 20 games exclusive to the Rift, but as with any new platform promising the moon too regularly to its rabid early adopters, those numbers are subject to change.
As far as the news goes, that’s all good and well, but if you go into this Rift deal with big eyes as an under-informed sort of modern gamer thinking all you’ll be spending is that $600 (not including shipping, sales tax or customs fees where those are charged), you’ve got another think coming…
graphics card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
processor: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
memory: 8GB+ RAM
output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
input: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
operating system: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer
Fortunately there’s a highly recommended compatibility tool you can (and should) download to check your specs. I knew my current system wasn’t up to snuff (and it’s new, too, *sob!*), but I went and checked it out anyway for laughs:
So much for that pre-order, I guess. Actually, online pre-orders are all sold out, but the Rift is going to be available at selected retailers when April rolls around. As for compatible PC’s, if you can’t build or upgrade you own (like most consumers who still can’t set the clock on their DVD or Blu-Ray player), off the shelf options that are Rift-ready will start at around $900, meaning you’ll be dropping at leas $1500 at a minimum if you’re going into this blind. Ouch.
Thing is, for many if not all those who’ve dropped that pre-order loot, they KNOW what they’re getting into right off the bat and will probably have little to no complaints. That is, unless the launch window titles are all too short and not very good at all after the initial thrill wears off. With so much time and money spent by developers on making these upcoming game experiences, it’s probably a safe bet that you won’t see too many clunkers on that new device because nothing kills a new platform faster than bad games and worse reviews. If there’s enough quality control and less ego-stroking on the dev and PR side of the fence, there will hopefully be less chance for not so hot games to drop and turn people off of VR which won’t replace current gaming styles at all at the end of the day because both the cost and fact that some see it as unnecessary limits who can play whatever comes out.
I’m probably not going to be getting a Rift anytime soon. Not because I don’t want one, mind you. The game demos I’ve gotten to try over the years have been interesting and the tech has improved greatly over my initial experiences with bubbly shutter vision and head-spinning after-effects, none of which were apparent in the last game I sampled (threeonezero’s visually gorgeous ADR1FT). But Sony’s upcoming VR solution seems as it will be simpler if not easier to use out of the box and it will work on every PS4 without costing more to upgrade. Granted, there hasn’t been a price announced for that unit yet (E3, anyone?). But given that Valve’s solution with HTC (Vive) is pretty much expected to launch as a premium VR experience with a premium price tag, it’ll be interesting to see how a console many PC gamers consider “under-powered” does against a pair of devices geared to those who want to flaunt what they own in the latest digital pissing contest.