Linux gamers, beware! The Oculus Rift is now available for preorder at the surprisingly high price of $599, but it won’t support Linux as originally planned. Oculus dropped support for Linux and Mac OS X in 2015, making the first consumer version of the Rift Windows-only.
The Oculus Rift’s Linux support is paused
Linux support wasn’t just something Oculus promised in the future. It was something they were actively developing.
Version 0.2.3 of the Oculus SDK—released in mid-2013—added support for Linux. Red Hat’s Richard Jones blogged about his experience with it in August 2013, finding that the original Oculus Rift developer kit offered a basically plug-and-play experience on Linux. “Surprisingly, using Linux is not a problem at all. How the world has moved on,” he wrote.
But it’s a problem now. Oculus changed its mind in May 2015. In a blog post titled “Powering the Rift,” Oculus wrote that the minimum operating system required was Windows 7 SP1, and elaborated:
“Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high-quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows. We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.”
On December 8, 2015, Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey once again promised Linux support
“Linux support is on the roadmap post-launch, Mac support is on the roadmap post-decent Apple hardware release, whenever that is.”
Of course, there’s no actual date here. It’s generally a bad idea to buy a product based on a vague promise of what it will do in the future, rather than what it actually does today.
In Oculus’s defense, there’s a good reason to focus on the single operating system most PC gamers use and get it working as well as possible. The Linux graphics situation is also a problem at the moment, something those first Steam machines are struggling with. AMD’s new driver architecture and Vulkan may help Linux become more competitive in the future, however.
Steam VR and the HTC Vive to support Linux
While the HTC Vive and Valve’s Steam VR aren’t out yet and we don’t know all the details, Valve has announced its intention to support Linux as well as Windows. It would be shocking if Valve didn’t support Linux, since SteamOS—which ships on Valve’sSteam machines—is just another Linux distribution.
For now, it looks likely that the HTC Vive may beat Oculus to Linux support. If you’re a Linux gamer, that may be the headset to bet on. We should know more by the timepreorders for the Vive begin at the end of February.