In May 2016, Oculus VR and Best Buy teamed up to install Oculus Rift demo stations in 48 North American stores, a number that eventually ballooned to 500 locations leading into the holidays. But nearly half of them will soon be gone: Business Insider reported today that roughly 200 of those demo setups are being closed down because of "store performance."
An Oculus rep confirmed the closures, saying, "We're making some seasonal changes and prioritizing demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets. You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the US and Canada."
The device is available to try at other retailers, however, and the rep said that Oculus remains committed to its demo program. "We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo... We’re going to find opportunities to do regular events and pop ups in retail locations and local communities throughout the year.”
But while there's no question that traffic drops off, often precipitously, immediately following the holidays, it doesn't sound like the headsets were moving very well during the holiday season, either. Multiple Best Buy employees said they were only selling, "at most," a few Oculus Rift devices per week; one claimed, "There’d be some days where I wouldn’t give a demo at all because people didn’t want to [try it]."
My guess is that this probably isn't as catastrophic a blow as it may sound—but it's surely not good news, either. The cost of setting up 200 Oculus Rift demo stations had to be significant, especially for just a few months of operation, and while seasonal dropoff is inevitable, it's also temporary. The existing Oculus demo setups that are already in place are basically a fixed expense, so why get rid of them so quickly if any sort of seasonal bounceback is expected? It's one thing to tweak your setup, but cutting it by 40 percent has the look of something a little more extreme.