Technology

CES 2016: Oculus Rift VR headset goes on sale for $599

Oculus headset Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The high price of the consumer version of the Rift headset has been criticised on social media.

The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has been put on sale at a price of $599 (£410).

Pre-orders for the CV1 version of the headset are now officially open and the device can be bought via the Oculus website.

Anyone ordering the headset now should have it shipped to them in March, said the Facebook-owned firm.

Reaction on social media was swift, with some saying the final price was far higher than they expected it to be.

The arrival of the headset has been long-awaited since it first appeared on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site in 2012.

The Rift is the first of two mainstream VR devices set to be launched in 2016. Rival HTC is to release the consumer versions of its Vive headset in April.

The move was timed to coincide with the CES tech show in Las Vegas, where Oculus is demoing its headset.

Bargain for some?

Prior to the announcement, comments by Oculus executives suggested that the device would be in the "same ballpark" as the $350 cost of earlier developer versions of the Rift. In Europe, the cost is 699 euros and £499 in the UK. The prices do not include shipping costs and might also not include local taxes. Initially, the CV1 is available in 20 countries.

Customers are limited to buying one headset each. Bundled with the headset are the Eve: Valkyrie and Lucky's Tale video games as well as a movement-tracking sensor, cables, a media remote and an Xbox One controller.

In late 2015, Oculus announced that special controllers that let people interact more easily with virtual worlds would be delayed until the third quarter of 2016. No guidance has been given on how much these controllers will cost.

Analyst Piers Harding-Rolls from IHS Technology said although the price was high it might not hit sales because of who was looking to buy it.

"Early adopting PC gamers are likely to be less price sensitive," he said. "This is the type of audience that spends $400-$500 every other year on graphics cards and large amounts on games."

He added: "We do not expect PlayStation VR to launch at this high a price point, which gives Sony a chance to establish a lead in this opening phase of consumer VR."

By contrast, many expect the HTC Vive headset to cost more than the CV1 Rift.

Founder apologises

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey apologised for misleading customers over the price of the Rift during a Q&A session on the Reddit social news site.

"My answer was ill-prepared, and mentally, I was contrasting $349 with $1,500, not our internal estimate that hovered close to $599 - that is why I said it was in roughly the same ballpark," he wrote.

"Our biggest failing was assuming we had been clear enough about setting expectations."

On social media others pointed out that anyone who put down cash for a development version of the Rift headset when it launched on Kickstarter had now got a bargain, as the firm has promised to give these backers a headset free.

A survey out earlier this week suggested many who are tempted to buy the VR headset will have to upgrade their home computer to satisfy its computational requirements.

The study, backed by graphics chip-maker Nvidia, suggested only 1% of PCs worldwide had the CPU horsepower to give people a smooth VR experience.

Read more of our CES articles and follow the BBC team covering the show on Twitter.

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