Best Buy Gives VR a Reality Check

The honeymoon is over. Best Buy is closing 200 of its Oculus Rift demo stations less than six months after announcing plans to feature the virtual reality headset in 500 stores in time for the 2016 holiday season.

The groundswell of interest Facebook had hoped the demo stations would bring for its VR headset has apparently not materialized. An Oculus spokesperson attributed the closings to “seasonal changes” but Business Insider cited an internal Best Buy memo that said the closings were due to “store performance.” The BI report said it was “common for [stores] to go days without giving a single demonstration.”

Multiple Best Buy employees told PC Gamer they were selling "at most" a few Oculus Rift headsets per week, and one employee spoke of days when no customers would stop by to try out the headset.

The Oculus spokesperson told BI they are “…prioritizing demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets,” and noted that customers can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the US and Canada. Oculus said it will be looking for opportunities for regular events and pop ups in retail locations and local communities throughout the year. Microsoft Store continues to conduct Oculus demos and has said it plans to expand its VR offerings.

Destructoid’s Take on it the closings is particularly interesting:

Forget the idea of pinkeye and the fear of germs from slipping your head (and hair/part of your face) into a VR headset that's been used hundreds of times, VR has always had a "demo" problem. When I was first shown VR, it was some lousy tech demo that turned me off. But after strapping in my consumer grade Oculus Rift and spending several weeks immersed in every launch game, I was more than happy with the idea of spending a lot of my time gaming with modern virtual reality. It's just such a massive step up from older technology, but it's a hard sell— literally, since the cheapest units cost whereabouts of $500 or more, before you even have the hardware to run it.

Where am I going with this? Well, VR is still a niche thing in the consumer circuit, and even though wireless headsets and cheaper…pricing is coming, it's not there yet…

Read Business Insider’s report on the closings here.

Is VR stalling before it even takes off? Share your thoughts and experiences with virtual reality.

jnemesh's picture

VR is doing VERY well, in general, for such an early adopter product! Vive is selling well, Sony PSVR is knocking it out of the park...only Oculus is struggling. You might want to keep that in mind when reporting on it!

rainmanway's picture

Highly recommend this. Find a demo or just go buy. I liked the store demo(Best Buy) a lot, but doing it in the comfort of your home, with your audio gear is mind blowing. This is the future. If you game, you won't be disappointed.