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Was Oculus Rift's launch a disaster?

Mockulus Rift
Product: Oculus Rift | Publisher: Oculus | Format: Oculus, Other VR
Update: Earlier version of this story says that someone paid up front for the Oculus Rift. This was incorrect and has been corrected. 

It's a funny sort of launch where you can read a review of a product, decide that it is your jam and then be totally unable to get hold of one anytime soon. That's exactly the sort of launch that Oculus has opted for.

It's not in any stores just yet and ordering the headset on the Oculus website, at the time of writing, says you'll have to wait until July. That's 4 months away, by which time any white-hot excitement you might have to enter your own holodeck is going to fade to lukewarm.

There's an old adage among games press and developers: "You only get one launch." It's the one time when consumers most want to get their hands on your product and the idea that this launch asks customers to wait for 4 months is, frankly, a piss-take.

But what if you've already pre-ordered? Well, that's an entirely different nightmare. People who pre-ordered both minutes and hours after the pre-orders have gone live are finding that the March shipping date that was suggested isn't on the cards anymore.

Adam Austin-Andrews is an enthusiast who wants to utilise the Oculus Rift with his work in the offshore oil and gas industry - with a definite interest in some of the games too - and purchased his on January 6th, as soon as pre-orders went live.

He pledged the full cost (£529.00 inc. shipping) and was expecting the headset to be with him on launch day. Currently he's got no news on when it might be shipping.

"I'm fairly laid back" said Austin-Andrews, "but it would have been nice to have had an update with a rough delivery estimate - especially as I can see lots of other people have received theirs"

Obviously most of the major press outlets have been sent one, so that their review coverage can go live at the right time, but the launch itself has been a disaster. Fans of mobile tech might remember the Apple Watch had similar availability issues and while Apple claim it's the best selling smartwatch of all time, being unable to actually buy one really hurt it in the early days.

Admittedly, this hasn't stopped one of my best friends from using his Apple Watch for everything and the same could well be true of Virtual Reality too, but the Apple Watch had a slight advantage: a direct competitor wasn't launching less than a month from now.

I'd consider something a real disaster if it's been afflicted by a catastrophe stopping you from playing a game how it's supposed to be played: SimCity, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Final Fantasy 14. These are all games that collapsed under their own weight at launch, victims of their own popularity as hundreds of players gather to kick the hell out of the server at launch.

In a funny way, the Oculus is as much a victim of this as anyone else - a victim of it's own popularity as the company has pre-sold so many units it doesn't appear to have the availability to keep up. A key difference here though is that while these games may not work right, you can't even get your hands on this shiny new VR headset.

So, while many might have been taken in by Palmer Luckey himself delivering the first Oculus Rift, it seems like the Oculus Rift has failed on one key aspect of it's launch: the part where you can actually get the product.

We'll be covering the Oculus Rift plenty in the next couple of weeks, including a rundown of some of the games you can get your hands on. If you've got a pre-order on the way, we want to make sure you're making up for lost time as soon as it arrives.


Reviewer photo
Jake Tucker 30 March 2016
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