Oculus is giving game developers early access to the final Rift virtual reality headsets ahead of next quarter’s consumer launch.
The first units are shipping now, and come packaged with Rift SDK 1.0 developer tools. Oculus says developers will need both the hardware and SDK 1.0—which includes “features tied to the consumer product”—to finalize their games or apps.
Oculus didn’t elaborate on what’s included in SDK 1.0, but the changes could be substantial. As Ars Technica notes, previous updates have required developers to rework much of their code, and so some game makers have been holding off on Rift support until they know what the final SDK entails. (Oculus says SDK 0.8 remains “the right platform for early development,” at least.)
As for Oculus Rift’s consumer launch, an exact release date remains elusive. The headset will cost north of $350, and buyers will also need a Rift-ready PC, which could bring the total price to at least $1500. That doesn’t include the optional position-tracking Oculus Touch controller, which will ship later in the year.
Meanwhile, competitors are preparing their own VR products for launch in 2016, including HTC’s Vive VR collaboration with Valve (recently pushed back from a late 2015 launch due to a “very big breakthrough”), and Sony’s PlayStation VR, which has no specific release date either.
Why this matters: Although Oculus’ developer release doesn’t have much direct impact on users, it’s still a major milestone that suggests the Q1 consumer launch is still on track. And with a 1.0 version of the developer tools now available, commercial game and app development can begin in earnest. In other words, virtual reality is nearly ready for consumer-grade consumption.