VR is a hit this holiday season — so much so that some of the industry’s most compelling systems were backordered as far as February 2020.
Facebook warns that new orders of the Oculus Quest self-contained standalone system won’t arrive until February when ordered from its website in the United States. It is sold out from other online stores as well and, in recent days, we’ve seen Amazon resellers as much as tripling the price of the all-in-one VR headset which is normally priced starting at just $400.
Valve, meanwhile, warned that new orders of its Valve Index PC-powered headset wouldn’t arrive until February before removing the ability to pre-purchase the hardware in the United States and switching to a “notify me” option for when it is possible to buy it again.
Steam is the only official place to purchase the super-comfortable Valve Index headset so if you find it available elsewhere it is likely from a reseller marking up the price of the hardware. The modular system from Valve sells as a kit for $1,000 but also requires a high-end PC to operate. The February shipping expectation was starting to approach the March release window for Valve’s highly anticipated VR game Half-Life: Alyx.
VR In 2019
For those unfamiliar with the VR market as it stands in 2019, Oculus Quest is Facebook’s standalone VR headset which ships with a pair of Oculus Touch controllers that allow precise and intuitive control of incredible games like Beat Saber, Pistol Whip, Super Hot and many more excellent titles.
Quest works great completely wireless but Facebook also recently added a new wired mode to the system called “Oculus Link” that allows it to be optionally powered over a USB 3 cable from a VR Ready PC. This mode dramatically expands the library of content accessible with Quest to include top tier expansive VR titles like Skyrim VR, No Man’s Sky VR and even Half-Life: Alyx when it arrives in 2020. Facebook also recently added an experimental controller-free hand tracking mode to Quest that allows operation of its menus without the controllers and a subset of developers should start to support the feature in 2020.
Valve Index is the newest PC-powered system from the company behind the Steam store and the original breakthrough 2016 headset from HTC, the Vive, which was the first to offer consumers intuitive hand controllers and the freedom to move around an entire room while immersed in VR.
Index still includes a wire back to the PC to operate (though Valve is exploring wireless options) but also includes an optical design tailored toward visual comfort while running at 90, 120 or even an experimental 144 frames per second. This may provide a more visually comfortable experience in VR for some buyers than Quest’s top frame rate of 72.
The full Index kit also includes Valve’s new controllers which strap to the hand around the palm and knuckles to allow full release. All other current VR controllers including Vive wands, Windows MR controllers and Quest’s Oculus Touch require them to be actively held. Valve developed the controllers alongside Half-Life: Alyx and, though the game is promised to work with all PC-powered VR systems with tracked hand controllers, some optional interactions will only be possible with the Index Controllers.
Are you picking up a Quest or Index? When did you order and what expectations were you given for arrival? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you happen to spot a Quest in physical stores anywhere in the world, maybe drop a note in the comments to other readers to let them know where they might snag one.
Update: Article originally published Dec. 17 and updated with new information about Steam availability on Dec. 22.