You’ll soon be able to try Facebook’s Oculus Rift at Best Buy, and that’s a pretty big deal.
Despite all of the hype (including from yours truly) about virtual reality being the next great entertainment medium, the vast majority of consumers still haven’t even tried on a VR headset, let alone played any VR games.
And that’s important when you consider that VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and its chief competitor, the HTC Vive, cost $600 and $800, respectively, and need to be powered by a $1,000 (minimum) computer.
Regardless of how many times you read how incredible the Rift is, dropping $1,600 on a VR setup without being able to see it or hold it first is asking a lot of consumers.
And so much of the VR experience requires that you actually put on a headset. There’s a reason reviews of the Rift and Vive mention how difficult it is to convey in words exactly why VR is so awesome.
The first 30-minute Oculus demos start May 7 at 48 select Best Buy locations across the country, with more stores getting the headset throughout the summer. You can schedule your demo via Oculus’ website.
But — and this is a BIG but — Oculus is currently dealing with severe supply shortages. In fact, the company’s inventory of Oculus Rift headsets is so limited that people who preordered through the company’s website in January still haven’t received their units. As Polygon’s Ben Kuchera points out, that’s incredibly problematic, to say the least. In fact, we even had trouble getting our own unit.
Adding to the outrage over Oculus’ decision to put units in retail stores rather than customers’ hands is the fact that some systems will even be sold at retail locations.
As an olive branch, Oculus is giving preorder customers the option to buy their Rifts at participating Best Buy locations, while still keeping their preorder benefits, including the Eve: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack and priority status for Oculus Touch controller preorders.
But if I had gone through the trouble of preordering a Rift back in January and still hadn’t received it yet, and then found out that someone was was able to walk to a local Best Buy and purchase the headset without having to wait, I’d be pretty annoyed.
In the company’s defense, Oculus is trying to get headsets in front of as many eyes as possible in order to ensure that consumers outside of the worlds of tech and gaming actually want to buy Rifts.
The problem is, no matter how many people are interested in purchasing the Rift, there simply isn’t enough hardware to go around. So until the company can deal with its inventory issues, it’s going to have to deal with angry customers one way or the other.