After years of anticipation and hype, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset launched on Monday. It's pretty damn cool! The only problem is that three days later, very few people appear to actually have one. You can't find them in stores, and Oculus hasn't done a great job of telling people who preordered when theirs might ship. If you backed the Oculus Rift during its initial Kickstarter campaign, you're probably getting a headset this week or the next. If you order a Rift today, it sounds like there's an estimated ship date of July. If you preordered — even if you made your order within minutes of preorders going live back in January — you're probably gonna have to wait, too. According to a mass email sent out by Oculus on Monday:
Kickstarter units will start arriving today, and the first pre-ordered Rifts will start shipping mid-week and arrive soon after. We're working as fast as we can to get Rifts to customers who pre-ordered. If you pre-ordered, you'll get an email when your order is being prepped (1-3 weeks prior to shipping) and then another one when your payment method has been charged and your Rift is on its way.
That sounds OK at first glance. Problem is, that's the only information people who preordered have been given. It appears as though that initial email went out to everyone with an Oculus account; it's more of a newsletter, really. I didn't preorder a Rift, but I got the email. People who preordered haven't gotten direct emails with more details about their order status, which most of us have come to expect when we order something online.
You can check your order status on the Oculus site, but the landing page doesn't offer many specifics. You'll see a page with your order number along with an empty space for the tracking number. "TBA when your order ships," it reads. That's pretty much it. People who preordered just have to wait, and at some point between now and… mid-April? May? ... They will get an email telling them their order should ship within the next three weeks.
Plenty of people who preordered are as upset about the lack of communication as they are about possible delays. The Oculus subreddit is currently full of threads from people trying to determine when their order might ship based on others who've gotten ship notifications, or by reverse-engineering their order number to determine their rank compared with everyone else. It's a mess of half-answers and frustrated guesswork, and it could be pretty easily dispelled by some better communication from Oculus.
The preorder and shipping process worked similarly for the prototype DK2 headset Oculus started selling a couple of years ago. The bare-bones system didn't seem as odd at the time, since that headset was a developer's kit that wasn't really intended as a commercial product. The new Rift is a regular piece of consumer gear, so I get why people would have different expectations of how buying and shipping should work. I asked Oculus what might be causing the delay and how they might change things in the future, but they declined to answer my specific questions.
It's not unusual for a new hardware launch to hit some snags in manufacturing and production, particularly when the technology is brand new and the company selling it has never launched a commercial product. It's also understandable that people would be frustrated by the lack of direct communication and by Oculus' evidently poor customer service apparatus. For my part, I want more people to get their headsets so that I can finally play EVE: Valkyrie against a full server of humans. It's lonely out here with all these bots.