When HTC and Oculus launched their VR headsets, both companies ran into fulfillment problems that caused significant delays. Oculus, however, seemed to be more significantly impacted than HTC, and suffered a larger number of delays. As of today, HTC claims to be shipping out all orders within 72 hours, while simultaneously expanding its retail availability and demo locations.
According to HTC’s press release, the Vive is now on sale in 24 countries and can be purchased from select Microsoft stores, GameStop, and MicroCenter locations. Pre-orders placed through these retailers will begin shipping this week as well. The company also notes that it’s expanding its demo locations up to 100 stores across North America. Microsoft Store demos will expand to 51 showrooms, up from the current 29, GameStop will have 40 demo locations (up from 10), and MicroCenter will have 10 total, up from 5.
“Since beginning pre-orders at the end of February and shipping in early April, we’ve seen incredible interest in Vive,” said Dan O’Brien, VP of VR at HTC. “Working with our retail partners has only enhanced that momentum because more people are able to try the only truly immersive virtual reality offering on the market today.”
Oculus has made headlines recently for its decision to introduce DRM to the Oculus Store and break third-party compatibility after Palmer Luckey promised he had no interest in doing so. Palmer has a long history of making statements and then breaking or retracting them, as catalogued here. The debate over copyright and interoperability in VR, while important, has somewhat obscured the fact that Oculus does seem to be making progress in fulfilling its orders.
When we first wrote about the Oculus delay in April, we noted that the expected ship date for hardware had bumped to August 2016. Today, Oculus is still holding to that August deadline. There are several potential ways to interpret this: The company may not be receiving many new orders at this point if demand for its hardware was largely fulfilled by the pre-order phase. It could be refusing to update its shipping schedule, since it knows any additional push-back will invite a fresh round of negative coverage. Or it could be that Oculus has resolved its manufacturing issues and doesn’t expect to need to delay new shipments past the August time frame.
Right now, we don’t know which of these options is the case. What we do know is that the Vive’s handheld controls have won some notable converts, including Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson, who noted that the Oculus Rift was far better in his favorite game, but that the motion controls on the Vive are superior to the Oculus’ head-only option.
Oculus is facing down a significant threat at this point. While the HTC Vive is more expensive, it’s also expanding into more retail outlets and demo kiosks. It’s the device with motion controls you can use rather than a vague date and an unknown price tag. It’s the device you can order today and conceivably have by Friday, not the hardware you order today and receive at some point in August — if you’re lucky.
I’m not taking a stance on which headset is actually better; ET hasn’t reviewed either and I haven’t experienced them in my own home as opposed to a trade show demo. But as far as which headset is putting points on the board and shipping with a complete bundle, HTC seems to have a definite advantage.