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Oculus Rift launches as VR market heats up

With hefty price tags but limited content and applications, virtual reality headsets such as Facebook's newly released Oculus Rift are entering a challenging market.

The $599 Oculus launched Monday, along with the release of 30 new video games developed for the headset. It comes a week ahead of the launch of HTC's $799 Vive VR headset, also expected to be a strong competitor in virtual reality gaming.

"Thousands of developers are building for Oculus, working on everything from entry-level games to fully immersive video and film," an Oculus spokesperson said in an email to CNBC. "We're at the very beginning of this journey, and as VR becomes more mainstream, we can't wait to see the breadth of experiences that developers create for both hardcore gamers and casual VR fans."

The spokesperson attributed the Rift's hefty price on expensive components and manufacturing processes that have never been used before.

The VR companies, also including Samsung and Alphabet, however, will eventually have to convince investors that there are better uses for the devices beyond gaming.

A man wears an Oculus VR headset as he plays a video game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 16, 2015.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
A man wears an Oculus VR headset as he plays a video game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 16, 2015.

Naturally, Facebook's Oculus has added social features. Samsung Galaxy VR headsets, powered by Oculus technology, allow users to experience immersive video content along with their friends.

Virtual reality has already been applied in the health-care setting, helping doctors train for surgical procedures.

It's still early days for those uses, but some already see potential in virtual and augmented reality hardware and software. That market could be worth $80 billion by the year 2025, according to a Goldman Sachs research report earlier this year.