Video games have come a long way since the release of the Magnavox Odyssey and the Atari 2600. In the last 40 years, we’ve seen gaming go from Duck Hunter to Skyrim, from Sega Genesis to Xbox One. Like all visual media arts, video gaming aims to create an experience which is both immersive and life-like. Whether you’re throwing touchdowns in the latest edition of Madden or fighting with the Minutemen in the wasteland of Fallout 4, the game becomes a means by which you’re transported into a life unlike your own. On January 6, 2016, Oculus made the announcement that their virtual reality gaming headset Rift was available for pre-order and would begin shipping March 28.
Rift originally began as a Kickstarter project in 2011, shortly after Oculus founder Palmer Luckey rigged together a prototype at the age of 18. Through Kickstarter, Oculus raised $2.5 million for the project, and rewarded its backers with access to the DK1 prototype. Since then, Oculus released a total of four more prototypes before making the announcement of a consumer version in May of 2015. The consumer-ready product ships with the Oculus Rift headset, microphone, sensor, Oculus remote and Xbox One controller. The Xbox One controller is necessary until the Touch is released. Oculus Touch consists of two handheld devices (imagine an Xbox One controller split in two) that aim to feel as natural as using your own hands. All pre-orders ship with EVE: Valkyrie, a multiplayer dogfighting game set in the EVE Online universe and Lucky’s Tale, a platforming adventure game, centered around Lucky the fox.
The pre-order price for Rift is $599, but it is not a stand-alone device. Rift must be connected to a computer running Windows, also equipped with a video card equivalent to NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 or greater. The oculus.com website has a program download that will check to see if your computer is capable of powering Rift. In the event that your computer isn’t compatible, Oculus will be offering Rift-ready PC bundles in February, starting as low as $1,499.
While Rift and the PC bundles are by no means cheap, it’s important to remember that we’ve entered a new frontier. Rift is the first virtual reality headset of its kind, and is laying the foundation for the next half-century of gaming. The IBM 610 auto-point computer cost $55,000 upon its release in 1957. Now, a computer which does much more runs you around $1,100. If you enjoy being the first to have new tech, and are a serious gamer, Rift’s price tag is meaningless. As VR begins to take off, Oculus is an important player in the tech market. Facebook bought Oculus VR in 2014 for a sum of around $2 billion. Pay attention to Facebook stock quotes as Rift begins delivery on March 28.