The Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset has gone on sale for pre-order at US$600 and will be shipped in March.

The price point, equivalent to $900, has sparked complaints that the hardware is overpriced and has provoked comparisons with the cost of the second development kit, which was almost half the price.

Founder Palmer Luckey defended the cost, arguing it was "obscenely cheap".

Luckey argued that while phones and televisions are cheap to develop but sell at a high profit, Oculus Rift will be selling at near cost.

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"It is expensive, but for the $599 you spend, you get a lot more than spending $599 on pretty much any other consumer electronics devices," he said.

There's another cost, however: a PC powerful enough to run it, estimated at over $1000.

Oculus, however, hasn't established itself as a must-have household item like televisions and mobile phones are. The combined price of a powerful PC and headset will be prohibitively expensive for many, leaving the Oculus Rift as a product for early adopters in 2016.

Mark Zuckerberg certainly showed confidence in the hardware - Oculus was acquired by Facebook in early 2014 for US$2 billion in cash and stocks.

Valve and HTC's partnership VR headset, Vive, is also scheduled to be released this year, boasting similar specs. HTC has yet to announce a price for Vive.

The third contender, Sony, is sticking by its promise of a VR headset for the PS4 in 2016 and said people should expect it to sell at roughly the price of a new console, which we can estimate at $550-$650.

Unlike Vive and Rift, PlayStation VR won't require the purchase of a beefy computer - and for those who don't own a PS4, the cost would still be markedly lower (currently $530).

Furthermore, the first party support guarantees a buy-back loop for Sony, meaning it could sell the headset at a loss and recoup on game sales.

The chief executive of Sony recently told the BBC that more than 100 titles were in development for the PlayStation VR, positioning the company as the most market-ready developer.