The world of virtual reality headsets is back on the computer games hit list with the upcoming UK release of the Oculus Rift. While Nintendo pioneered the technology years ago with the red menace that was the Virtual Boy, it’s only now that the exciting potential of VR gaming is about to take its next big step forward.
Most of us have picked up on the basics on the Oculus Rift, but the big questions – when is it’s US and UK release date, how much will it cost, what games will be available from day one and will it have Xbox ONE compatibility – are a little less well known. To help explain things, we’ve tackled each of these and a whole lot more to give you a solid understanding of what to expect from the next evolution of gaming and entertainment.
Oculus Rift release date
The official “expected” ship date for the Oculus Rift pre-orders that are now available (only from the Oculus Shop) has been confirmed for July 2016, which for us still leaves a lot of woolly potential for time shifts and ambiguity. However, if it’s shipped in July from its US headquarters it will arrive in the States much quicker than it will in the UK.
What that doesn’t tell you is when it will be available to buy from your local game shop or other online retailer like the average pound of bananas. If the ship date from OR HQ is scheduled for July 2016, we’d expect it to be arriving in stores late summer or early Autumn 2016, which will make the holiday period at the end of the year a very virtual vacation, especially with the PlayStation VR arriving this year too.
For anyone that pre-ordered the device when the gates came down in January 2016, your Oculus Rift will be dispatched on the 28th March 2016. For the rest of us, which is the majority, we’ll need to either jump on the bandwagon now and pre-order for the next shipment planned for July, or wait for it to arrive in stores, hopefully later in 2016.
Oculus Rift price
Essentially, the only price available at the moment is in US dollars at $599 for the Rift headset, sensor, remote, Xbox ONE controller and two of the day one games – EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale, which you can find out more about below. In the UK, that equates to approximately £420 with the current exchange rate, but as we’ve seen with other big tech releases like the Xbox ONE, what it costs in the US doesn’t always equate to the price in the UK with the different tax structures and the additional shipping costs to take into account.
With this in mind, we’d estimate that it will be closer to the £500 mark, but then you’ll also need to factor in the costs of a Rift ready PC, which is covered in the spec section below. That would either add an additional est. $1000 to your overall price if you’re buying new, or around half that to upgrade your existing system (depending on its current spec).
Day one Oculus Rift games
At the moment there are just the following games confirmed for day one on the Oculus Rift, but with last year’s developer kit sell-out and the upcoming Xbox developer briefing we’re expecting a whole lot more games to be announced in the not too distant future. You can get a preview of all of the day one games in action in the trailer below.
This is a VR space shooter with impressive visuals, incredible pace and a unique, futuristic style. It’s one of the two games bundled with the Oculus Rift and probably the most exciting prospects of the two.
Lucky’s Tale is a cutesy platformer with an immersive VR twist, which also comes with the pre-ordered bundle. You control a 3D cartoon fox called Lucky, as he runs, jumps and spins his way through a very lush and colourful landscape.
Edge Of Nowhere
Edge Of Nowhere is an incredibly atmospheric third person action adventure set in the antarctic wilderness from Insomniac Games. You start out in search of a missing expedition team, but things descent into a surreal darkness with massive monsters and dangerous crevasses to deal with.
Chronos is a blend of RPG mechanics and third-person adventure excitement as you face an ancient evil and the tests of an annual labyrinth run in which you must find the secrets to your peoples’ problems.
Damaged Core is a robot blaster set in a dystopian future where humans are an endangered species.
VR Sports Challenge
This one does pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s a first-person sports sim that will see you playing American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey.
An odd puzzler with telekinesis powers thrown in for good measure.
Here you take control of rocket-stocked tanks and mecha to decimate everything and anything in your way.
How does the Oculus Rift work and what can you do with it?
As you probably already know, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that allows you to immerse yourself directly into visual media like games and movies through a connection with a Rift ready PC (minimum spec below). What this means is that instead of looking at a flat image on a screen, you have independent view points in the headset for each eye, which allows you to become fully immersed in the thick of the adventure.
Custom made VR games and films will mean that your experience is 360×360 degrees if you can crane your neck or contort your body to test that out. While there’s not that many of them at the moment, it’s only a matter of time before they start to become more prevalent, especially with the increasing popularity of 360 degree cameras that are starting to flood the market. While this will support movie development, it will also allow you to record your own high octane movies and play them back with the kind of 360 degree experience you had when you made the video.
If that isn’t enough mind-blowing excitement for you, you’ll also be able to stream traditional content through an Oculus Rift headset, which will include traditional 2D and 3D movies, as well as non-VR games on your PC or Xbox ONE which we’ll come back to later. This means that the Rift also becomes your own personal escape pod, so if the other half is watching some interior design show you can just wack on the headset and do your own thing.
Visit the European Patent Office for more information about the technology innovation behind the Oculus Rift.
Oculus Rift Xbox ONE compatibility
In the very least, you’ll be able to stream your Xbox ONE games through the Oculus Rift with a Windows 10 PC that is Rift ready. This won’t necessarily immerse you into the games with 360 degree VR capabilities, but it will mean that you’ll at least be able to use the headset to play your favourite Xbox ONE games in your own personal view port.
However… we’re betting that there’s a storm brewing at Oculus and Xbox HQs as they’re frantically trying to create something that can credibly compete with Sony’s PlayStation VR. What we’re hanging our hat on is that there are a lot of murmurings about Xbox getting both hardware updates and Windows 10 as its operating system and if both of these come to pass then it could green-light the Oculus Rift to work natively on the Xbox ONE.
We will hopefully know more after its annual developer conference later this month, but in all fairness to Microsoft it did eventually come through with Xbox ONE backwards compatibility, so surely it can do the same with its only virtual reality headset option with PlayStation VR already on its way. If that isn’t enough might behind it then the fact that it had a $2 billion investment from Facebook to take over Oculus VR should be enough to indicate that it’s got the resources to make Xbox ONE compatibility a reality.
Oculus Rift minimum specifications for PC
As the Oculus Rift has been built to work with a PC or Windows 10 powered device, it will require a certain amount of minimum spec to work, which you can see below. However, you might want to aim beyond this to really future proof your technology and make the most out of the gaming experience.
Video Card – NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
CPU – Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
Memory – 8GB+ RAM
Video Output Compatible – HDMI 1.3 video output
USB Ports – 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
OS – Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer
You can’t help but be excited about the prospect of the Oculus Rift with its immersive atmosphere and potential to reinvent gaming as we know it, but as things stand right now it’s still a work in progress. The technology is definitely there, although there’s more work to do to delver native Xbox ONE compatibility in our book. However the games roster isn’t massive and what they don’t necessarily rock our world just yet.
Additionally, with the official general UK release date (when you’ll be able to buy it in a shop or order it online for next day delivery) is still unclear, so even if you did want to get in on the action you’d need to order is from them directly and wait for the long-haul delivery. A part of the catch 22 of the situation is that it’s early days and Oculus VR will be trying to balance supply and demand, but the popularity of the device has clearly caught it by surprise.
All that aside, we’re looking forward to getting our hands on the Oculus Rift and giving it a living room road test it’ll remember for a long time. That sounds a lot weirder than it was meant to, but you get what we mean. It may just be a high tech novelty in the beginning, but it’s looking more and more likely that VR gaming is here in a big way and will only go from strength to strength in the years to come. It’s success will ultimately lie in the games that are created for it and as soon as the first epic FPS or big name game makes its way to the Rift it’ll be like lighting a touch paper attached to one of the most technologically sophisticated rocket ship on the planet.
if you’re interested in the science behind VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, Reading University has set up a Virtual Reality research group to share the latest details behind the burgeoning technology.