The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is available starting today, but currently is limited to Kickstarter backers. Shipping for pre-orders begins mid-week.
Good news and bad news for Oculus Rift faithful, today. The good news is that the Oculus Rift officially launched today, with press embargoes dropping pertaining to the Oculus Rift hardware and its launch line-up of over 30 games. The bad news is, oddly enough, that despite the Rift launching today, shipments for pre-orderers have not yet begun and may not arrive until the end of this week at the earliest.
Oculus did begin shipping some Oculus Rift headsets last Friday, but those headsets were reserved for the original Oculus Kickstarter backers who were rewarded with a free headset. While it’s not clear how many Kickstarter headsets were sent out, it’s safe to assume at least several thousand are either in the mail or arrived at homes. Additionally, press have had access to headsets for some time now. Oculus is absolutely on top of headset manufacturing. The issue seems to be focused solely on shipping issues.
The first wave of Oculus Rift pre-orderers, the first paying customers for the Rift, were originally told that March 28 would be when shipping started for their VR headsets. In recent weeks that claim grew a tad untrustworthy, with Oculus reneging on providing granular shipping dates. It was only last night that Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey said the following:
Shipping update: Kickstarter Rifts will start arriving Mon, pre-orders start shipping mid-week (likely Wed) and will arrive this week too.— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) March 28, 2016
Tens of thousands of Oculus Rift pre-orderers are understandably anxious for their launch headsets, with hundreds of thousands waiting in the grander queue that expands into the months ahead. While an initial frustration with initial delays is likely, Palmer’s transparency regarding shipping and the deluge of VR coverage from the media will definitely help pre-orderers remain patient.
As for the launch beyond the Rift itself, everything seems to be running very smoothly. Oculus launched the Oculus Shop, which is the default interface for the Rift when it’s started up. Each of the 30+ launch games are up and running, though there are reports of lag in AirMech: Commander‘s multiplayer. Other multiplayer games, like VR Tennis, seem to be doing fine. There’s word that it’s tricky to start accessing non-Oculus Store content, but it’s easy after you know where to find the check-box.
Oculus also had a surprise for those with access to a Rift on launch day, an additional bundled-in “VR Experience” named Farlands. Farlands is a sort of sci-fi terrarium, like a Pokemon Snap or Viva Pinata without the game part. Henry, the virtual reality movie from Oculus Stories, is also available for free, but only for a limited time. Oculus is going out of the way to provide plenty of VR content for players to dive into without spending more than the Rift’s initial $600 price tag. Which is plenty, for sure.
The Oculus Rift is out in the wilds right now, as is the Oculus Store and all of the Rift’s launch titles. Unfortunately, only Kickstarter backers currently (and partially) have access to the Rift, with pre-orderers having to wait until at least mid-week for shipping to begin. Nevertheless, the era of high-end VR has begun. It likely only gets better from here.