For all the hype surrounding year one of VR, kick-off might come mid 2016 as Oculus, HTC/Valve, and Sony stay vague on release dates that are slipping toward mid-year.
For months, the little rumor going around in the VR world was that December 8 would bring an announcement from HTC and Valve about the ship date of the HTC Vive headset. And, if we were especially good boys and girls, perhaps we'd all have Vives by Christmas.
Rumors are, of course, rumors. HTC posted a blog post on Tuesday night saying that the Vive will be available commercially in April 2016.
"Since announcing the HTC Vive in March of this year we have focused on developing immersive content, refining both hardware design and user experience, and building relationships with new partners both inside and outside of the gaming industry," the blog post said.
Regardless of whether some snafu pushed back the release date, or if it was planned all along, for many VR enthusiasts, this means waiting another 5 months for the Vive, said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. He also said, though, that it's not unexpected as Valve has a track record of product delays.
"These delays from Valve are a known issue and the game industry even has a term to describe how Valve delays its product launches, it's called "Valve time," he said.
What those itchy to get their hands on the Vive can expect in the early part of the new year is a greater availability of developer kits, which to this point have been far less accessible than Oculus' first and second developer kits. The blog post said 7,000 more units will be available.
For context, Blau said that's a significant number and enough to kickstart their VR content ecosystem, but it's still a smaller number compared to the number of Oculus developer kits out there. In June, Oculus touted that it had shipped more than 118,930 DK2s. However, Oculus also had a few years headset on the Vive.
"For any of the VR ecosystems to survive they must have a continual and ongoing pipeline of content and 7000 developer units is probably just the start of their efforts," Blau said.
Since nothing was officially promised of that December 8 date, again, it's unclear if this is a real delay. However, year one of VR could be getting started a bit later than expected, with only the mobile-driven, lower end of VR out in the wild--Google Cardboard and Samsung's Gear VR.
Here's when Vive's biggest competitors will hit the market:
- Oculus Rift: Has only officially confirmed its consumer version (CV1) for a vague Q1 2016 release
- Sony Playstation VR: No official release date, and it won't be announced until next year
- Microsoft Hololens: While this is technically VR's cousin augmented reality, it's highly anticipated by much of the same audience. But, it'll only be available as a developer kit (also in Q1), and for $3,000.
It is worth noting that part of the narrative surrounding the Vive versus Oculus competition has been the advantage the Vive could get over Oculus, which is still the dominant player, and Playstation by hitting the market first. (Part of that hinged on early exposure to the Vive's hand controllers, which are natively built for the Vive, unlike Oculus' Xbox One controller.)
"If someone was to begin their search for a VR HMD, Oculus is very likely to be the first, and possibly only, name they think of. That's where the biggest benefit from first to market lies: a chance to be on equal terms with Oculus at least in public recognition," said ABI Research's Eric Abbruzzese.
And now, they'll have to compete directly.
"Over the long term, for 2016/2017 I don't think this delay will hurt them, but given Valve's track record, any additional delays will impact their ability to sell units in 2016," Blau said.