As fans of the Oculus Rift eagerly awaited its launch towards the end of last year, they received the disappointment of having the Oculus Rift launch delayed to this year. Apparently the tech giant failed to deliver properly this year as well. While virtual reality is perhaps the most exciting tech field of today and many would argue that producing virtual reality gadgets is almost as fail-proof as printing money, apparently you can still not make a great job of it.
While there weren’t any reported issues with the product itself, the buzz surrounding the qualities of the Oculus Rift remaining more or less intact, the way the company handled the Oculus Rift launch leaved much to be desired. Here is an overview on what happened and the reasons for the growing discontent of the brand’s fans.
The Main Issues with the Oculus Rift Launch
As mentioned above, the launce for the official headset was initially scheduled for last year. Then, it was delayed for the beginning of this year, with the company taking pre-orders starting with the middle of January (2016). There is also some hefty amount of competition in the niche of VR headsets, so Oculus already needed to compete fiercely with equally popular (or even more popular options) out there. Some of them include HTC Vive, the Sony PlayStation VR headset, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard (it may seem a joke, but it works), the Microsoft HoloLens and many more.
Considering these competitors, Oculus Rift already had to struggle for the attention of consumers as it were and consider themselves lucky to get many pre-orders placed in January. Instead, the website where users were pre-ordering crashed right in the middle of the pre-ordering period. Many of them still are waiting for their orders, or at least for some sort of communication regarding the estimated time of arrival for their order. Unfortunately, it’s not the case; not only that the Oculus website experienced technical issues around the time of the Rift headset launch, but their communication with clients was found to be lacking as well.
All in all, the Oculus Rift launch was considered a huge mess, by (former) fans and harsh critics alike. What delayed times of delivery had been offered (although most users didn’t receive ETAs at all) were initially scheduled for the end of March and have now been reportedly been pushed further into an uncertain future. The company has issued a press release stating that they have already sped up the manufacturing process in order to meet demands on time or even faster, but the general perception of customers waiting for updates seems to be still one of discontent. To get an idea of how delayed you could expect a potential Rift headset delivery to be, you should know that orders placed last Tuesday (April 19) can be expected to arrive only in late August.
The Wider Oculus Business Implications
At a first glance (and based on their PR statements), the problem of delayed shipping could be attributed to a major amount of orders, and, implicitly, a huge commercial success. But the data gathered from analyzing customer complaints (online communities like Twitter and Reddit seem to be seething with Oculus Rift complaints) and also judging by the obvious lack of communication on the hiccups experienced, it all seems to point to a failed launch. Considering that the company has been developing this Rift headset product for over 2 and half years before launching it, it’s a bit surprising that they will find themselves in the middle of a shortage of components, and the lack of communication is also a major red flag. Following the growing discontent related to the Oculus Rift launch, the company’s representatives were reached numerous times for a statement or for clearing the air on the topic of what is going on with their product, and most of the time they didn’t reply, or replied with a major delay.
Some analysis argues that the company’s lacking ability to handle the aftermath of their issues, at least on a PR level, is sort of bad news for the entire VR industry. The general perception is already that these headsets issued this year by various companies aren’t really good enough to use, but only pioneers in the field, which is expected to experience a quality boom in the upcoming years. But for this development to take place, the speed of things in this initial stage is crucial. Through the delays involved in the official launch, the entire industry is experiencing a delay now: direct competitors may feel a slight advantage, but all the app and game developers which needed the Rift headset to be in the possession of their target customer in order to sell their product are now severely drawn back themselves.