The Oculus Rift is coming to retail stores this weekend, and things just got a little more complicated for preorder customers. On May 7th, 48 Best Buy locations across the US will start offering demos of Oculus' virtual reality headset. The chains will also have an "extremely limited" supply of Rifts available for purchase, marking the headsets' first appearance in brick-and-mortar stores. For anyone who can't make it to Best Buy, a small number will also be going on sale online through Amazon and the Microsoft Store, starting at 12PM ET on May 6th.
For the large number of people still waiting on their Rift preorders, there's at least a little hope of getting one right away: if they manage to grab one of the rare Rift retail units, they can contact Oculus and get their preorders canceled without losing any attendant benefits. This means they'll still get a free copy of space shooter EVE: Valkyrie, and they'll keep their place in line for Oculus' Touch motion controllers, which should go on sale later this year.
A limited number of orders will also sell through Amazon and Microsoft
Oculus' Best Buy rollout is the latest step in what's been, to put it mildly, a rough product launch. The Rift was heavily backordered when units started shipping at the end of March, and a parts shortage has dramatically delayed many early orders. Computer manufacturers were still able to offer Rifts bundled with gaming PCs, and some customers have already gotten Rifts sooner by ordering them, but that usually involves spending an extra $1,000 or more on top of the Rift's $599 price tag.
An Oculus spokesperson says that they're still attempting to put as many units as possible toward preorder customers, noting that retail sales are launching later than initially expected. "We had always planned for retail to come after launch (we announced April), but we pushed it out as far as we could extend our partnership with retailers," she says. "We also scaled units down to very small numbers until we catch up with preorders."
Things are a little simpler for anyone who just wants to try out the Rift, but there's still likely a bit of a wait. Oculus will let potential visitors search for nearby participating locations online, where they can schedule demos up to a month in advance. They'll get to see a couple of the Rift's most polished productions: a reel of short Oculus-produced experiences called Dreamdeck, and Crytek's recently released rock-climbing game The Climb. Oculus is planning to open things up a little more this summer, when it will start bringing the Rift to more locations, including stores in Canada and Europe.
This isn't the first time Oculus has showcased virtual reality in retail stores: people have been able to try out the mobile Gear VR for some time at Best Buy. But the high-end Oculus Rift is far less accessible and far more hyped — and with the current shipping situation, an in-store demo might be the closest most people will get for months.
Update May 2nd, 1:10PM ET: Added statement from Oculus.