The Oculus Rift is facing serious shipping issues: Day one preorder customers have been told their hardware may not ship until late May or the end of June. That’s the news reported by multiple individuals following a shipping update from Oculus on April 12. New orders placed as of this writing are still appearing with an August ship date, but whether the company can meet this is anyone’s guess.
RoadtoVR has screenshots from individuals who ordered headsets within 30 minutes of the pre-order open who are now being told to expect their hardware by early June, while a customer who preordered within two hours has been told to expect hardware between June 10-23. If the vast majority of Oculus’ preorder sales were reserved in the first few hours, the company can probably clear its backlog relatively quickly and meet its new August ship date for current orders. If the majority of orders weren’t front-loaded, it could take additional months for the company to clear its backlog.
Oculus hasn’t commented on its problems beyond noting that it was facing an “unexpected component shortage” late last March, but these problems would be easier to understand if the company was still a scrappy Kickstarter project rather than a self-described industry titan that wants to upend PC gaming, reinvent how we interact with computers, and backed by Facebook’s cash. Facebook has designed its own servers for at least three years and contracts with Chinese and Taiwanese ODMs (original design manufacturers) to build them.
It’s not clear if these delays will impact Kickstarter backers. It seems that at least some KS backers are getting devices from a different allocation pool than other customers, but Oculus’ remarks on this have been somewhat contradictory and apparently some shipping estimates have been revised or removed as the company tweaks its schedule. Issues like this are one reason we advised against pre-ordering an Oculus Rift, not because we thought the hardware would be bad, but because Oculus has no experience coordinating the launch of a major product and there’s no guarantee of when hardware will actually be available.
The company’s Terms of Service have also raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, with Senator Al Franken requesting the company provide additional detail on its privacy policies and practices by mid-May.
What about the Vive?
HTC is still claiming that all Vive preorders will be fulfilled in the same month as shown on the order confirmation email. While that’s still open to considerable interpretation, the company isn’t backing down from these promises. Orders supposedly began shipping on April 5 and the company claims to be using a first-in, first-out order fulfillment policy.
Oculus has captured much of the mindshare around VR, but if Vive can keep its shipping schedule that could quickly change. Given how new VR is, there’s not much in the way of an incumbent advantage for Oculus to take advantage of. If Oculus’ ship date continues to slip, impatient customers may transfer their preorders to Vive or choose to wait and see which alternate VR solutions are plausible (possibly at lower price tags).