Virtual reality begins today. Oculus Rift, the technology that unleashed the mad dash to virtual reality gaming four years ago, begins arriving on the doorsteps of those most eager early adopters (see: people who invested on Kickstarter) Monday, following a busy preorder window that has left a backlog that will last through the summer. The first devices may hit the bricks Monday, but it will take months for Oculus Rift to ship all of its original orders, meaning even journalists hoping to review the devices still have to wait a little while longer (early reviews say it’s worth the wait).
As Oculus Rift user videos begin to trickle onto Youtube, the promise of virtual reality will feel fulfilled, but in actual reality, it’s just getting started. At $600, Oculus Rift is hardly a mass market item, especially since the device only works joined with a powerful PC. So if you didn’t manage to get your order in on time or were simply waiting to see how the technology pans out in its first release, don’t fret your judicious budgeting. Both the HTC Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR headset are set for release this year (Vive comes out in May and PlayStation VR comes out in October). 2016 is going to be a big year for virtual reality.
Those who do find themselves unwrapping an Oculus Rift soon will enter a gaming world that may be utterly new, but it will also look remarkably familiar. Titles like EVE: Valkyrie, Lucky’s Tale, and Chronos have all been hyped for a while now, probably because they manage to look awesome without appearing intimidating. With hints of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Banjo-Kazooie, the VR versions of these classics will piggyback on their familiarity to provide a hopefully seamless transition into the new realm of gaming.
Meanwhile, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey ventured to Anchorage, Alaska on Sunday to hand-deliver the first Oculus to pre-order customer Ross Martin. (Mark Zuckerberg, whose Facebook bought Oculus a while back, even congratulated Martin on the distinction.) In the genre of CEOs delivering stuff to customers, it’s predictably, satisfyingly sweet. Watch:
Oculus also does not need to be a success for virtual reality as a medium to succeed, though a lot is riding on the most high-profile release of a VR console yet. Any major hiccups and the vaunted tech could find itself a distant third in what is expected to be one of the most competitive gaming markets for the foreseeable future. Frontrunner Oculus will have to fend off a challenge from the more affordable Playstation VR, while competing against the dynamic but pricy Vive.
The first Oculus Rift debuted a little over four years ago when its Luckey launched a developer-only Kickstarter for a bare-bones version of the current headset. A cleaned-up version launched two years ago, around the same time that Facebook bought the company for $2 billion. Since then, the VR technology has helped NASA provide a 360-degree of Mars and driven speculation about the future of gaming. But all that is history. Oculus has just been building up to Monday’s first arrivals and the beginning of a new reality.
Didn’t get a Rift but want to check it out? The dudes at Giant Bomb are running this live-stream review of it right now: