The team behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset has explained the the recent suspension of sales of the device’s developer kit. Speaking at a panel at the South by South West (SXSW) Gaming festival, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and vice preisdent of product Nate Mitchell revealed that the components in question had been out of manufacturing for a long time and that an update on the situation would be coming soon.
Oculus VR announced the suspension back in February 2014, stating that certain components used in the dev kit were no longer in production. The remaining stock stayed on sale in available territories until it was sold out.
“So basically, you have to order parts ways ahead of time and there’s massive lead times for components,” Mitchell reasoned when asked about the situation. “So we were constantly estimating how many development kits we thought we’d sell. When we started the company I’d guessed that we’d sell 10,000 development kits. So we’ve crossed, I believe, the 60,000 development kit mark and basically the components were end of life a long time ago, many of the components including the display.
“So they just aren’t being produced any more and so, with that in mind, we can’t actually manufacture more units right now. We theoretically could but we’d have to manufacture them at a pretty heavy loss because we’d be buying the components like second hand, refurbished and it wouldn’t be a good experience for anyone.”
“And even that has limits,” Luckey added. “There are so many of them out there that you can get and a lot of them are low quality components that have been binned. And we could potentially re-engineer the device to work with different components but that’s a really tricky thing to do at this stage in its lifespan.”
“So we have some ideas on how we’re going to address that and in the near future we’ll have announcements in the next few weeks,” Mitchell concluded.
It’s possible that those ‘ideas’ include making the next iteration of the developer kit available for purchase. VRFocus speculated as much when news of the suspension broke. Taking Mitchell’s timing into account, ‘the next few weeks’ could well mean at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2014, where Oculus VR has a presentation scheduled for 19th March. The company has teased that it will talk about its ‘vision for future development hardware’ at the event.
VRFocus will be at GDC 2014 covering all the latest on the Oculus Rift headset, the games that support it and anything else related to virtual reality.