In brief

  • Virtual conferences and events are becoming the norm in the coronavirus lockdown.
  • Demand for VR headsets has increased but supplies are low.
  • As a result, prices have shot up on online marketplaces.

In the last month, governments around the world have enacted strict lockdown policies to control the spread of the coronavirus. This has led to a huge surge in self-isolation, remote work, and virtual interactions, such as virtual conferences.

But the increasing demand for VR headsets has sent their prices through the roof on secondary marketplaces. 

Prices for the Oculus Quest VR headset have skyrocketed. Image: Shutterstock.

Popular virtual reality headsets including the Valve Index and Oculus Quest are now selling for as much as double their recommended retail price (RRP) on marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, as official stockists sold out weeks ago.

VR headsets have spiked in value in recent weeks. Image: eBay.

The Valve Index—currently regarded as a top-end virtual reality headset—is now listed for sale at well over $2,000 by some sellers on eBay, despite retailing at just $999. The recently released headset is currently available to order directly from Valve at normal retail prices, but with a wait time of at least 8 weeks.

On April 2, eBay said it had started blocking or removing items with inflated prices. But this only applies to coronavirus-related items, such as health care masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfectant products. Other products, like toilet paper, baby formula and bleach are also being restricted on eBay, but there are currently no restrictions on virtual reality gear, allowing sellers to charge whatever buyers are willing to pay.

The Valve Index is also available on Amazon—which has a similar policy on coronavirus goods—for between $2,400 and $3,000.

Virtual conferences become the norm

According to a report by Business Insider, approximately one-third of the global population is experiencing some sort of movement control measure. But this hasn't stopped businesses and event organizers from finding a workaround.

In the last month, video conferencing software like Cisco's Webex and Zoom have experienced a dramatic uptick in usage. In the first 11 days of business, Webex users racked up 5.5 billion meeting minutes, whereas Zoom users smashed the 100 billion minute tally seen in January, reports The Motley Fool.

Some organizations have even taken it a step further by offering virtual reality conferences and events, including the upcoming Consensus 2020 conference, which will take place in May. Other virtual crypto conferences include the Ethereal Virtual Summit and Blockdown 2020.

The crypto industry has already seen multiple smaller virtual events. Podcast host Udi Wertheimer has been hosting Bitcoin meetups in cyberspace, while Kickback events trialled an Ethereum event, running on the Ethereum blockchain—that pays you in Ethereum-based DAI if you attend. 

Crypto figures have also been trying out blockchain-based game Decentraland, which can be explored in virtual reality. The game launched in February and lets you buy plots of land using the Decentraland (MANA) cryptocurrency. 

But what’s the point buying the land if you can’t afford to see it?