Oculus opens pre-orders for Rift VR headset in Europe, Canada

After getting on top of some teething problems with shipping to domestic buyers, Facebook-owned Oculus Rift has opened up pre-orders for its VR headset outside the U.S., announcing today that the kit is available to buyers in Europe (UK, France and Germany) and Canada, with a ship date of September 20.

Oculus has lined up a series of retail partners to resell the Rift headset in the new markets, including Amazon’s local sites in the three European markets; along with FNAC in France; MediaMarkt and Saturn in Germany; and John Lewis, Curry’s PCWorld and Game Digital in the UK. Londoners can also shop for the Rift in the upmarket department store, Harrods.

RRP for the Oculus in Europe is £549/€699 — so UK buyers don’t (yet) look to be suffering a Brexit bump on the price-tag. This is not true of the rival HTC Vive headset, which earlier this month increased in price by £70, with the company blaming “recent currency valuation changes”.

The Vive’s post-Brexit UK price is £759 which on the surface makes the Oculus look a whole lot more competitive (at £549), although in reality it’s not a like-for-like comparison because the Rift is not yet shipping with its dedicated Touch motion controllers.

The Touch controllers have been delayed until later this year and Oculus has said they will also cost more — how much more we don’t yet know. Whereas the Vive’s price is the all-in kit cost (although as with both headsets you still need to own or buy a powerful enough PC to drive the VR). So it remains to be seen whether the Oculus will be a more or less affordable full VR rig than the HTC Vive.

How much demand there is for virtual reality remains an unknown at this nascent stage. But reporting its Q2 quarterly results earlier this month, HTC credited the Vive headset with contributing to a 27 per cent rise in its revenues over the prior quarter. Although it did not break out any hard sales data. Oculus has also kept quiet on Rift sales to date.

Even without any sales data it’s clear that a rich ecosystem of compelling content is going to be essential if VR is to be anything other than an expensive and niche gaming playground for the few. And that will certainly take time to develop.