Consumer virtual reality tech is still early enough in its lifespan that there's a good chance you only know a few people who've even used it, but it seems that the impending release of Valve's Half-Life: Alyx has been helping headsets fly off the shelves. Today, after months of unavailability, Valve says it's restocking a limited supply of its Index VR hardware on Monday at 10am PT, just two weeks before Alyx's launch.
The Verge reports that Valve is sending out emails about Monday's restocking to folks who've logged their interest on the Index's Steam store page, and provided a comment saying largely the same thing it's telling consumers: "We do expect available stock to sell out Monday due to high demand, so all purchases fulfilled beyond this initial quantity will be fulfilled in the order in which they are received, as supplies increase over the coming months."
You do not need Valve's $999.00 Index VR kit in order to play Half-Life: Alyx, as the game is designed to work with any SteamVR-compatible headset. Still, you may have a hard time finding any of those: a few weeks ago, we reported that the Index and many other compatible VR headsets were either sold out or facing shortages. Even today, Oculus' official website lists both the PC-only Rift S and the Quest as unavailable in the US.
For folks who are bullish on the adoption of VR, these runs on supply may be seen as a good sign of consumer interest, but there's also another factor at play here: the effect the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has had on manufacturing. Last month, Valve confirmed it would be able to sell "far fewer" Index kits before Alyx's launch than planned due in part to the coronavirus. In early February, Facebook also warned that the outbreak could have "some additional impact" on production of the Oculus Quest.
Anyone who has yet to buy a VR headset and is thinking about picking one up for Half-Life: Alyx now has a much better idea of what they're in for, as around 20 minutes of new gameplay footage were released earlier this week. On top of supporting multiple types of VR set-ups, Valve has also designed the game with a wide array of movement options and VR comfort settings in mind.
If you miss the VR boat now, worry not. The success of the $399 Oculus Quest in particular is likely to encourage more VR development and to challenge other headset manufacturers to drive down the price of their hardware. Half-Life: Alyx may not even be that series' only foray into VR; at the very least, Valve's Robin Walker says that it's only the start of their "return to this world, not the end of it." Half-Life: Alyx launches on March 23.