Valve and HTC are serious about putting VR headsets in as many homes as possible. The pre-orders for the HTC Vive have been fairly strong and they've decided to increase the presence of the device by opening up kiosks at GameStop and Microsoft Stores across the nation, at select locations.
IGN is reporting that GameStop will have HTC Vive units and a catalog of the 120 games available across 10 of their stores throughout the United States. Microsoft will take things a step further by offering Vive demos at more than 30 different locations across the nation, including Microsoft stores located at New York, Bellevue Square in Washington, and the City Creek Center in Utah.
It's surprising that Microsoft would be promoting a competitor's device, but in the grand scheme of things the HTC Vive fits in line closer with Microsoft's ecosystem thanks to its more open-ended structure as opposed to the Oculus Rift, which is locked down pretty tight from a software standpoint thanks to the restrictions and regulations put into place by Facebook.
I suppose Microsoft is adopting the mantra “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
If Oculus does manage to take control of the market with the Rift, then they will have a lot of say over how VR in general evolves. In the current climate, Microsoft doesn't have a VR solution, only the trans-reality device known as the HoloLens. It's a device that works as a head-mounted display for augmented reality as opposed to a thorough virtual reality experience like the other headsets.
It also makes some sense that out of the VR headsets out there Microsoft would support the one that still supports the software ecosystem of the Windows OS and doesn't completely negate the use of the Windows App Store the way the Oculus Rift does, which has its own curated software through the Oculus Store, where Facebook has to approve of everything that ends up on the store.
Also, it would make zero sense for Microsoft to back the PlayStation VR given that all that would do is promote Sony's PlayStation 4. There's no way I could see them doing that. The same sort of applies to Samsung's Gear VR, which is designed for Android smart devices.
When looking at it from a perspective of which device best suits the long-term interests of Microsoft and aligns with their current product infrastructure, the HTC Vive actually comes the closest without cannibalizing any of Microsoft's products directly.
At the moment, the HTC Vive shipments are going out and are expected to arrive for customers within April. The first batch of units are all sold out through to June. If you go to demo any of the games at the Microsoft Store or GameStop locations, you'll be able to place pre-orders for the next batch units set to arrive during this summer.
For virtual reality aficionados curious about shipments of the Vive and other questions surrounding the availability of HTC's headset, you can check out the official shipment updates page. You can check out participating GameStop and Microsoft locations throughout April to play-test the HTC Vive games at the kiosks.