This news is going to make a lot of early Oculus backers very, very happy. The company announced at CES 2016 that anyone who paid for an early version of the hardware through Kickstarter will receive the retail version for free. This offer applies only to backers who pledged money during the initial Kickstarter run, not anyone who purchased a second-generation dev kit (DK2) or has purchased hardware since the company was bought by Facebook.
This announcement will go a long way towards patching up relationships between the company and many of its most ardent fans. Back when Oculus announced it had been acquired by Facebook, many users were angry and felt they’d spent money to bring hardware to market, only to wind up fueling a Facebook acquisition. Jokes about how Oculus would soon have mandatory Facebook integration were mostly in jest, but not entirely.
Early backers will receive the same retail package that’s available to order, along with copies of Eve: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale (no relation to CEO Lucky Palmer, that we know of). This move is undoubtedly strategic — it ensures that some of VR’s strongest supporters are guaranteed to receive the game — but it also rewards people who believed in Oculus long before the company had billions in Facebook funding and multiple dev kits under its belt.
Oculus has also announced that it will open the Rift for pre-orders on Wednesday, January 6 at 8 AM Pacific Time (11 AM EST, 4 PM GMT). Oculus isn’t saying when the device will actually ship, and has yet to comment on price. Just before Christmas, Oculus CEO Palmer Lucky tweeted that “VR will become something everyone wants before it becomes something everyone can afford…There are a lot of people who expect to spend a couple hundred bucks and use their existing low-end laptops.”
Previous comments by Lucky have suggested that Oculus was targeting a price point higher than its original $ 350 target, suggesting the device will run at least $ 380. Oculus has also delayed shipping its upcoming Oculus Touch controllers, and will sell these separately from the Rift for an undisclosed price. Oculus Touch is expected to ship in the second half of 2016 according to the Oculus blog.
VR is going to be one of the major gaming stories of 2016, but as we’ve said before, there’s going to be a significant adoption curve as game developers experiment with how best to tell stories in the new medium. It’s not clear yet which AAA titles will support VR, and it wouldn’t surprise us if the sleeper hits of the new format are smaller-scale games or unique titles that serve up bite-sized gameplay extremely well rather than the open-world panorama of an Assassin’s Creed or Fallout. Given the frame rate requirements to prevent nausea (90 FPS is considered the minimum), many of these titles wouldn’t translate to VR at all without a significant overhaul and dramatic quality reduction.