Even though Oculus is woefully behind in shipping Rift pre-orders to customers, the company has courted more controversy by moving forward with its retail plans, which includes letting people buy Rifts at places like US retailer Best Buy. "For many, this is a first chance to jump into truly immersive VR," reads a company blog post explaining the plan.
This is probably true! Though the coming of virtual reality has been hyped for years, the last month or so has witnessed devices finally shipping.
It'd be one thing if these "retail experiences" were simply a way for people to try out VR, but that would be silly. It makes sense Oculus wants people to buy a Rift the moment they're sold on it, so Best Buy will have Rifts on-hand, too.
The problem for Oculus is that shipping hasn't gone smoothly, with the company having to push pre-orders back substantially for a number of customers. My own pre-order was moved from April to June — a big delay!
Oculus says "select" Best Buy locations will have access to a "small number" of Rifts on May 7, with both Amazon and Microsoft's online store getting their own units on May 6.
Those units will apparently be "extremely limited" until pre-orders normalise, and I suspect the online orders will disappear almost immediately.
Does this mean someone could walk into Best Buy and purchase a Rift before their own pre-order ships? Yep. Oculus has prepared for this situation, it seems.
We know that many pre-order customers are still waiting for their Rifts, so we're offering those customers a chance to purchase Rift from retail instead — while keeping their pre-order benefits, like the EVE: Valkyrie Founder's Pack and priority status for Touch pre-orders. Starting May 6th, if you're interested, simply go to your order status and let us know you've purchased a Rift at retail, and we'll cancel your pre-order. Your EVE: Valkyrie entitlement will appear in your order history.
It's not a good look for the company.
Unfortunately there aren't yet any retail locations for the Rift in Australia. However, the blog post states that they will be introduced to international locations in Canada and Europe in spring, so hopefully it's only a matter of time.
From what I understand, these retail agreements were made far in advance; at some point, they simply had to happen. That doesn't make it any easier for anxious virtual reality fans who've patiently waited for their own kits, though.