Facebook will begin taking pre-orders for the Oculus Rift Consumer Edition virtual reality headset starting Wednesday. The headset will ship in the first quarter, although no release date or price has been announced yet. Oculus VR, which Facebook purchased in 2014 for $2.5 billion, will start taking the pre-orders at 8am Pacific Time on Jan. 6 over the Oculus web site. Oculus is expected to announce the price of the headset on Jan. 6.
Every headset box will include a Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox One controller. And consumers will also receive a pair of free games: CCP Games’ space combat shooter EVE Valkyrie and Playful’s platform adventure game, Lucky’s Tale. Later on consumers will be able to purchase the Oculus Touch, a controller worn on your hands, that lets you physically see your hand in a virtual space.
Facebook (FB) on Dec. 31 delayed the launch of its Oculus Touch virtual reality controllers until late 2016.
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The pre-order for the headset is a big deal for Oculus, but an even bigger deal will be the announcement of a price for the system, which is expected this week at CES, a huge technology show held in Las Vegas. Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey will be answering questions during a Reddit AMA from the show on Jan. 6 at 6pm Pacific Time. The company is demonstrating its latest virtual reality technology at the Las Vegas trade show.
Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster believes Oculus will launch in March for $450, which represents a $100 loss. He forecasts sales of a few hundred thousand units in 2016. For context, the Oculus Developer Kit 2 sold 175,000 units over the first year.
“If Facebook sells 350,000 units at a $100 loss, that would imply a $35 million investment in 2016,” Munster says.
Greenlight VR CEO Clifton Dawson expects the price points for Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch to be on the higher end of the spectrum, somewhere between $399 and $599.
“Prices above this level will most certainly affect early sales, but fortunately Facebook has the ability to optimize decisions for the long-term, rather than near-term profitability,” Dawson says.
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Munster forecasts sales of virtual reality headsets will grow from 12.2 million in 2016 to 100.2 million by 2020.
“We believe the availability of Oculus Rift should mark a turning point in investor optimism on the VR theme, notable that virtual reality is the start of a new computing paradigm,” Munster says.