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Oculus sets price, launch date for Rift

Facebook's Oculus Rift Consumer Edition launches March 24 for $600.Facebook's Oculus Rift Consumer Edition launches March 24 for $600.
Facebook's Oculus Rift Consumer Edition launches March 24 for $600.Courtesy of Oculus

After months of avoiding the question, Oculus has finally unveiled the price for its flagship virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift. And it’s a lot more than many people were expecting.

The Rift will cost $599 and hit retail in March, though many buyers won’t see theirs until May (and possibly later). That’s almost double the $300-$400 range the company’s co-founder predicted at CES a year ago. Oculus, which is owned by Facebook (FB), began to back away from that figure as 2015 went on, though.

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Early adopters are likely to snap up the headset now that pre-orders are open. In fact, the pre-order site crashed early on as it was overwhelmed by demand, and what CEO Palmer Luckey called “mass script kiddie fraud attempts.” Luckey apologized for the headaches, but couldn’t help crowing a bit about the demand.

The ordering headaches aren’t limited to being able to complete the transaction. The ship date has been fluid so far as well. Originally, the pre-order site said the Rift would ship in March. That quickly was changed to April, then May.

The Rift’s price, however, puts top-tier VR far out of reach for the mainstream audience. Not only does the headset cost twice as much as a video game console, the odds are good that users’ computers lack the necessary horsepower to run the unit.

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Oculus says bundles including an Oculus-ready PC and Rift will be available for pre-order next month with prices starting at $1,499.

“[You] might be able to build on your own cheaper, but [it’s a] good option for normal people,” said Luckey via Twitter.

Beyond that, the anticipated controller—the Oculus Touch—will not ship with the headset, something Oculus acknowledged two days ago.

The Rift will ship with a pair of anticipated games —the Mario-like Lucky’s Tale and the space dogfight game Eve: Valkyrie—and early backers of Oculus will receive a unit for free.

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The price of the Rift also raises questions about what HTC plans to charge for its VR headset, the Vive. That system is likely to be more expensive, as it will ship with a controller, and HTC is likely unable to subsidize the cost, as Facebook can.

While the pricing is high, virtual reality was never anticipated to be a mass market product this early in its lifespan. Analysts—and even Oculus officials—have warned that it will be several years before prices and the technology become something that’s widely embraced.

Despite that, the virtual reality industry is expected to generate $5.1 billion in revenue this year, according to a recent report from SuperData Research.