I have been closely involved in Oculus launch preparation. It would be unwise for me to disclose the exact nature of my relationship with Oculus, but I can say I have been directly exposed to the whole process and know enough do give you details. I am making this confession because there has been so much disinformation, FUD and accusations on the internet recently and because I believe community deserves a proper explanation (and you are hopefully going understand why Oculus cannot do that directly).
Fist of all: the mysterious "missing component". This vague statement refers to Xbox One Controller + Wireless Adapter. While it might sound ridiculous that such ubiquitous accessory could be in short supply, it is important to understand that this device is manufactured in a very precise batches based on the demand simulations. Such predictions are relatively easy to make, as demand for Xbox One console + additional controllers sold via retail is pretty much constant and it does not fluctuate a lot outside of holiday season. Having strict production volume control in place allows to avoid expensive 'overstocking' (warehouse fees and overhead) and enables having streamlined, optimal and efficient manufacturing line (which brings further cost advantage). Additionally, Wireless Adapter is produced in much lower volume, as it targets relatively small market of PC gamers, mostly enthusiasts.
Second thing: all Rift components (HMD itself, camera, controller, boxes and so on) are delivered directly to one of the local distribution centers (US, EU, AUS/ASIA and so on) where final QA, packaging and shipping to the customers is done. They all come from different sources and locations, but till recently everything has been going well.
Thirdly: To give you some idea of the volume we are talking about here, day-one preorders are in the ballpark (huh) of 300K units - these are to be shipped ASAP (the actual backlog is larger). This figure is almost quarterly production volume for Xbox Controller Wireless Adapter (I think you can see now where all of this is heading...).
We were promised about 100K Controller + Adapter units delivered by Microsoft directly to the distribution centres at the end of Feb + regular monthly batches thereafter and were advised multiple times that everything is on track. When shipment date was getting close, shocking truth was revealed: due to "omission" by Microsoft stocking department, "our" batch of controllers was actually never allocated and reserved - there was simply nothing to ship! This was absolutely shocking case of mismanagement.
Then the hell broke loose. Countless conference calls later it was clear that there is no chance for MS to deliver any substantial volume of units at least until the end of the March. This was definitively the most stressful period in my career ever, it was already March, we had no controllers to put in the boxes and the atmosphere was very tense. At this point literally every single possible solution was evaluated. Microsoft was able to provide a few thousands units on a very short notice, but this was not nearly enough. Additionally, all sort of wholesale (and even retail) vendors were approached, with some success - so that is why small batches of the Rifts (mostly for Kickstarter backers) were actually sent out.
There was discussion if Xbox controllers should just be replaced with "vouchers" in the box entitling customers to claim Xbox controller later, either in one of the retail outlets or via Oculus Store, but this idea was eventually dismissed as: a) it would be too complicated logistically, especially on such short notice b) it would immediately reveal that MS is to blame for the situation, which they absolutely wanted to avoid c) most agreed that news headlines like "Oculus shipping slower than expected" sound better than "Oculus (or worse: Facebook) is shipping incomplete product" (while this might sound silly, it is very important for publicly traded company).
The main reason why no announcement was made earlier is because it was not clear how many controllers can be retrieved from alternative sources until very recently and assumption was made that Microsoft is going to deliver by the end of March. Manufacturing and shipping issues during product development are not uncommon (you get used to them in this business) and there was a good hope that the whole fiasco could be avoided. Additionally, it turned out that big Chinese retailer has a decent stash of controllers and dongles at their disposal, which sounded like a good backup plan. With all of this in mind, '1-3 weeks' emails were sent out, so it would allow us to buy some time when hopefully everything gets happily resolved in the background. However, this hope did not materialize: it turned out it would not be possible to get controllers from China on time (all sort of issues: customs, paperwork, company being 'difficult' to work with) and delivery from Microsoft slipped (again...). Of course in hindsight this was not the best way to handle things, but at that point it really looked like it would be possible to get away with minimum (if any) delay.
Eventually, when the alternative options failed, at the end of March the decision was made that:
we keep trying to fetch as many controllers as possible from alternative sources to keep the orders flowing (albeit at excruciatingly slow pace)
customers will be refunded shipping fees - this gets partially covered by Microsoft, as they agreed to provide substantial discount on (already discounted) controllers due to their mismanagement
further update will be made on 04/12, after big batch of Rifts + controllers from early April delivery is QA'd, packed and ready to be shipped to the customers (the idea was to start dispatching large batches from 04/12, but it did not go that well...)
Current situation is as follows:
the overdue, early-April batch of controllers took longer than expected to arrive, but they are here now - about 80K of them were received in distribution centers at the end of last week, with another similar batch coming later this or early next month. After all required processing is done, this will allow us to start shipping orders at full speed starting from the next week (hopefully earlier than later).
shipping dates you were given today are quite conservative. Unless something goes catastrophically wrong (huh...), your Rift should be dispatched on the first day of the period stated in the email (it could be even sooner, but no promises!) - code on the website simply adds 10 days to the initial date to generate the range in order to allow for some flexibility in case of unexpected problems (we have learned our lesson).
The most important matter: Despite all this mess, I want to emphasizes there was never any ill will or conspiracy here. I have got privilege to work with brilliant and extremely talented people who dedicated years of their hard work, with many sleepless night and weekends to make Rift happen. The hope that everything is going to be OK after "component" problem was identified was very real and tangible. I think pretty much everyone involved in the project is totally devastated by the current situation (believe, much more than you - even if you think this is not possible). It is unbelievably painful to see the entire precisely engineered product release plan to fall out by one detail that is not even under your control. Despite what you might think, there is a lot of people in the Oculus team who read this sub and they often take opinions here very personally - they dedicated a big part of their life to Rift after all. I can guarantee you that your concerns are being heard and I can only kindly ask you not to judge us and the Rift based on this incident.
I totally agree that communication aspect here could have been handled much better. I am sure if we knew what we know now, completely different decisions would had been made (yes, I know, easy to say now). And now: believe me, the team would love to officially announce what exactly is going on, but contractual agreement absolutely prevent us from disclosing any details about the deal with Microsoft publicly - and this includes nature (or even existence) of any problems, if/when they arise. Despite that, I (and I am sure many others) still feel that we failed the community who put a lot of trust in our words - this is why I am writing this now, although it might not be the most sensible thing to do. Please forgive us. We all learned a lot from this situation and strive to do much better in the future.
Ah, and the last thing: want some "proof"? Look at the serial numbers of XBox controllers shipped with Rifts so far. While normally range of these numbers should be relatively uniform, as they would be coming from one big preallocated "chunk", in fact the number can differ a lot as many of controllers are from the completely different batches - this is an echo of frantic search by Oculus Team for every available Xbox One controller in existence.
Link for if anyone wants to trawl through the comments!