Earlier this week, Valve's Index VR set was still sold out almost entirely around the globe just a month away from their own upcoming VR-only Half-Life: Alyx. No official word had come from Valve on the cause for the short stock or any estimate on when more units would be available. Previously we were only able to speculate on the cause for the hangup. Valve have now confirmed that the ongoing coronavirus health crisis has put a spanner in production of the Index headsets.
Valve said yesterday in a statement to Road To VR:
"With Half-Life: Alyx coming March 23rd, we are working hard to meet demand for the Valve Index and want to reassure everyone that Index systems will be available for purchase prior to the game's launch. However, the global coronavirus health crisis has impacted our production schedules so we will have far fewer units for sale during the coming months compared to the volumes we originally planned. Our entire team is working hard right now to maximize availability."
The World Health Organization cites the first reported case of COVID-19 appearing in Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. Coronavirus is now a global concern, with cases reported in 27 countries, though according to today's latest figures from WHO, 98% of confirmed cases are in China. Restrictions meant to contain further spread of the virus in China have prevented many people from returning to work, including factory workers.
You don't actually need Valve's own Index VR set to play Half-Life: Alyx, because it will run on Vive, Rift, and other PC VR headsets. That said, Valve are not the first to have production of VR sets affected by coronavirus. Earlier this month, Facebook halted new orders for their Oculus Quest VR set, citing similar manufacturing delays related to coronavirus.
When they originally announced the HL2 prequel, Valve said it would be difficult to imagine Half-Life: Alyx without VR. It will launch on March 23rd, leaving little time to get newly-made VR sets out the door. If you don't already own a PC goggles, you may just need to imagine playing Alyx for a while after it's been released.
Valve have reiterated that customers should sign up on their website to receive a back in stock notification when Index sets become available again.