Oculus VR has finally announced that the long-awaited Rift headset will launch in the first quarter of 2016, with the opportunity to pre-order later this year. The news comes by way of a blog post from Oculus on Tuesday evening, which also offers up what appear to be renders of how the Rift will look when the final consumer version of the headset appears.

That black slab could be the most advanced virtual reality headset ever created: the Oculus Rift.

Plenty Of Details Left Out

Despite the announcement, this is far from a definitive launch date. It still feels pretty fluid, and given how long Oculus has been working on the Rift, it stands to reason that the date could get pushed back even further.

Still, Q1 2016 makes a fair amount of sense, since that’ll put it squarely against Sony’s Project Morpheus headset, which will supposedly launch in the first half of 2016, as well. And both headsets will still launch months after the joint effort between HTC and Valve in the form of the Vive virtual reality headset.

Sony’s Project Morpheus, designed for use with the PlayStation 4 console, could give the Rift a run for its money. Maybe.

There’s also a lot of information that Oculus has decided to leave out of its announcement today. For starters, how much will the Rift cost? That same question has yet to be answered by the coming competition, too. It’s possible that they’re all eyeing each other warily, looking to see who announces a price first so the others can match it…or undercut it.

But We’ll Have Lots Of Games

We also don’t know for sure what software will be available for the device at launch. However, the easy access to Oculus’s dev kits over the last few years has spurred developers to create Rift-compatible titles for Valve’s Steam PC gaming platform. This list boasts 57 Rift-compatible titles already, so if nothing else, PC gamers will be spoiled for choice when the consumer-grade headset finally launches—assuming, of course, that developers can ensure compatibility with the final version of the device.

The Rift’s long development period has been frustrating for gamers in some ways, but that list proves it’s also been extremely fruitful. Personally speaking, this August 2014 Kotaku piece on what it’s like to play Elite: Dangerous with a Rift was enough to convince me that virtual reality headsets might just change the way we game forever. 

With the Rift, gamers can easily take a look around their virtual cockpits in the spaceship sim Elite: Dangerous.

When I can become a virtual spaceship captain, I think that’ll be the end of my social life. And that’s just fine with me … and probably a lot of other gamers who’ve been waiting for virtual reality technology to catch up with our imaginations.

The Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3, is just around the corner in June. Oculus will have more to show off there—and so will HTC, Valve, and Sony.

Rift images courtesy of Oculus; Project Morpheus image courtesy of Sony; Elite: Dangerous screenshot courtesy of Frontier

brian p rubin