Oculus VR is preparing to launch its retail strategy even before it has fulfilled all of its preorders.
Many people who preordered a Rift virtual reality headset earlier this year are still waiting for their devices while Oculus struggles with component shortages, but that’s not stopping the Facebook subsidiary from offering ‘a small number of Rifts’ at Best Buy and some online retailers this weekend. On Saturday, 48 Best Buy locations will offer people the chance to try out the Oculus Rift, and some of those store will also have headsets on shelves. Additionally, Amazon and Microsoft Store will have Rifts as well starting at May 6 at 9 a.m. Pacific time. This means that someone with no preorder could potentially walk out of a store with a Rift weeks or months before someone who locked down their order way back in January. Some analysts expect that VR will grow into a $40 billion business by 2020, but it’s going to have to fulfill its orders before any of that growth is possible.
We’ve asked Oculus if it’s worried about upsetting fans by letting Best Buy jump the line, and we’ll update this story if it chooses to respond.
In a blog post, Oculus acknowledges that some people are still waiting, and it thinks you should track down one a Best Buy and try to buy one yourself:
“We know that many preorder customers are still waiting for their Rifts, so we’re offering those customers a chance to purchase Rift from retail instead — while keeping their preorder benefits, like the Eve: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack and priority status for Touch preorders. Starting May 6, 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 preorder. Your Ever: Valkyrie entitlement will appear in your order history.”
This is option could work for some. Oculus doesn’t charge for preorders until the device ships, so you can use that money in your savings account at Best Buy instead. But, at the same time, you’d better hope that you live near one of these select retail locations.
A new Oculus site has a search to show you the nearest location that will have the Oculus demo — although the company has not said if every single one of those stores will get stock. You can also use this site to set up an appointment to demo the Rift.
I checked near me, and the closest demo is 45 minutes away on the far north side of Denver. That’s an adventure, but I’m lucky. States like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama won’t get the demo in this first wave — along with Europe or the rest of the planet. Oculus says that it plans to include more retail locations this summer, and it will expand internationally in the fall.