Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, is trying to get warm. "They have real buildings here in Alaska, I'm glad to report," Luckey told Polygon. He had taken the time to travel to Anchorage two days before the Oculus Rift's official launch to hand-deliver the first retail Oculus to a very surprised buyer named Ross Martin.
It all seems a bit bonkers, but you can watch the video for yourself.
"Last morning I got an e-mail that was very nondescript and low-key, and it just said that 'hey we want to ship your Rift to you on Saturday, we want to deliver it to you, please call us to confirm some details,'" Martin said. He thought it was cool they thought he would get it over the weekend, but assumed everyone who pre-ordered got the same e-mail. When he called the number he was told they would be delivered in person.
"It really didn't sink in, you know, it just felt weird for the first half of the day, and then towards the end of the day it started to become reality. I felt like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was amazing. Me? They chose me? I couldn't sleep that night."
For Luckey, this wasn't just a publicity stunt; it was an important part of his journey.
Why this was important
The retail version of the Oculus Rift launches this coming Monday, on March 28. It represents the end of a very long journey on the part of Luckey and, despite the obvious challenges of having the founder of the company out of the office the weekend before launch, he put his foot down about this delivery process.
"This didn't come together until the last second, I've had a bunch of things that I've wanted to do over the years, and I was pretty adamant," Luckey told Polygon. He just didn't give anyone much choice about his trip.
"I said hey guys, I've been working on this since 2009, we've been working on Oculus since 2012, I'll be damned if some random delivery guy is going to get the satisfaction of delivering the first Rift. That's mine." Luckey said. "So I could figure I could take a day out of the launch process and take a quick vacation in Alaska."
The vacation was a short one, however; they shot a quick video of the delivery process and then it was straight back to the airport to catch the flight home.
Hiking through Alaska in the winter wearing flipflops was a mistake— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) March 26, 2016
For his part, Martin didn't have any idea he was the first person to buy the hardware. He woke up early that day and visited some forums and chat rooms for tips, and made sure the page was loaded before the rush. The process went smoothly for him, but he was given no indication of his special place in line.
"I had no idea," he told Polygon. "I knew I was in the March shipping cycle. But there are people online who are comparing order numbers, and I never paid attention to that."
Luckey explained that there were "a few hundred" customers who put their order in at the exact same second. "The checkout process took everybody about the same amount of time, so he won by about a fraction of a second," Luckey said.
Our call was the first time Martin was given that piece of information, and stated he always assumed people gamed these automated ordering systems with bots or programs. "I would never think that someone doing it by hand would be the first," he said, sounding a bit dazed.
The Oculus Rift should begin arriving for the rest of the Kickstarter backers and first customers this Monday. It's unlikely the founder will be delivering any more.