Ever since Valve and HTC announced their virtual reality device, gamers have been scratching their heads about the Oculus Rift. The Vive was just a rumor until a few weeks ago, and it already has a launch window. But the folks at Oculus VR have been shy about attaching a release date to their device.
The "possibly in 2015" refrain has been repeated with some confidence by Oculus VR's team, but a recent SXSW panel is generating some skepticism.
During the discussion, Oculus inventor Palmer Luckey fielded questions about the device's release date. One attendee specifically asked if the Rift would be available by the end of 2015, and Luckey responded with a kind of wishy-washy confirmation (via Polygon).
Here's what he said:
I still do believe that. I still stand by that. I'm pretty confident. But that could change. I'd love for it to change because it means there is something even better out there. But I think that's unlikely right now.
Until last year, the Oculus Rift was the only legitimate contestant in the virtual reality race. Companies like Carl Zeiss and Samsung have devices in the chute, but none have generated the same kind of buzz. But with Sony and Valve unveiling their own pieces of VR technology, the Oculus Rift suddenly feels like an underdog.
But that would be an exaggeration. Facebook still owns Oculus VR, so the company obviously has the means to compete.
In fact, during the panel, Luckey said that Facebook's partnership has allowed the company to "expanded a lot of the ambition [it] had around the product." When an independent business goes from a Kickstarter project to a $2 billion company, things start to get complicated.
The reason that Sony and Valve/HTC have been able to manage such short timelines has more to do with their longevity in the industry. They already have contacts and partnership agreements with major manufacturers and research firms, but the Oculus Rift was invented three years ago by a 19-year-old.
Here's how Luckey explains it:
Us partnering with Facebook has allowed us to do a lot of things we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise, like hiring 300 people to work on getting the Rift out as quickly as possible to the quality level we wanted to. I can't comment on the date one way or another, in either direction, but I can say that nothing is going horribly wrong. Everything is going horribly right.
Plus, even if the Oculus Rift doesn't hit the market in 2015, virtual reality enthusiasts will still have plenty of toys to play with.