The Oculus Rift is the worst tech gadget launch ever

Oculus, Facebook, Best Buy, and Intel should all be ashamed of themselves.

Oculus Rift Development Kit 2
Oculus VR

I’ve seen my share of tech launches in the last 25 years, but this is easily the worst ever.

Those who pre-ordered an Oculus Rift months ago probably have not received their units yet. Due to a supply shortage, there have been constant delays. (Full disclosure: There’s also been a delay on my review unit, which is fitting.) Now, the company announced that Best Buy will be stocking them and giving demos of the product. According to most reports, there will be a limited supply of headsets available for purchase to Best Buy customers who decide to take the plunge. (An Oculus Rift rep confirmed that the device will go on sale May 6 for purchase.)

That’s appalling, when you think about it. So, instead of meeting the demand of those early adopters who have been waiting forever to get their hands on the product, Oculus is shifting some inventory over to a popular brick-and-mortar store. (I worked at the Best Buy corporate office in the 90s, so that’s two disclosures for you in one post.) Shame on them for leaving their customers out in the cold, and shame on Best Buy for ever agreeing to this. Also, shame on Intel for being part of this (since it is related to The Intel Experience at the store.) Oh, and Facebook -- you, too.

It’s nothing but greed that motivates companies who make these decisions to abandon pre-order customers. Those who are bothering to post in comments at all have said they are furious about this turn of events; many are canceling orders.

Oculus has said that, if you decide to purchase one at Best Buy, you can then cancel your pre-order. That’s like telling someone you can wait in a different line.

The main reason this is happening is that VR is something that does not sell itself from a retail shelf or a link on Amazon. It’s too new, and it’s too hard to imagine what it’s like to walk around on Jupiter or shoot aliens by looking at them and pulling the trigger. It is absolutely transportative and groundbreaking. Ultimately, it will save the gaming industry. You will soon be able to brandish a lightsaber in the Star Wars universe, which is easily worth the $599.

Yet, this is worse than any tech launch ever. The Apple Watch delay was peanuts compared to this. Standing in line waiting for a PlayStation 4? Not a big deal. Xbox One? No problem. I remember being one of the first people to buy an Apple iPad back in the day and it was a little frustrating. The Oculus Rift? The reason it is so maddening is that customers have been imagining what it is like to use this device since it was a Kickstarter project. I tried one at a small booth in the back of a side conference for CES years ago, and it blew me away. Fast forward a few years, and customers are still waiting for what it sure to become the tech gadget of the year (by far).

How much more can you botch a launch?

Instead of sending any demos at all to any of the stores, every single one of those units should be sent to pre-order customers. The company, owned by Facebook, might want to prove the value of the device compared to the HTC Vive, but not by shirking their best customers.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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