US high-street retailer Best Buy is to pull nearly half of its Oculus Rift demonstration stations, following what is claimed to have been poor consumer traction.
Having partnered with Facebook-owned Oculus VR for the retail launch of the company's eponymous Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, Best Buy went in deep by launching 500 demonstration stations in stores across the US. By visiting a Best Buy, users could strap on the Rift headset and try virtual reality for themselves - before plonking down their hard-earned cash for a headset and, Best Buy naturally hoped, a beefy gaming PC with which to drive it.
Now, though, Best Buy is to close 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift demonstration areas, though the two companies seem cagey on exactly why. Speaking to Business Insider
, Oculus VR's Andrea Schubert claimed the closures were due to 'seasonal changes
' and an effort by the company at prioritising demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets
.' An internal staff memo on the closures obtained by Business Insider, though, paints a different picture, claiming the closures come as a result of 'store performance
Comments from Best Buy employees suggest the latter may be more true than the former: The site has spoken to so-called Oculus Ambassadors who say that entire days pass without any customers being interested in a demo, while bugs in the Oculus software have often led to headsets being unavailable for use. Another worker claimed that the training from Oculus VR focused purely on selling the Rift as a concept and a talking point and not enough on actually getting money into Best Buy's tills.
Oculus has stated that it remains confident that live demonstrations are the way to go for VR sales, while Best Buy hasn't commented directly on the closures.