Media enthusiasts and analysts have been all-in on the VR craze since the Oculus Rift became a breakout hit on Kickstarter and ended up getting picked up by Facebook for $2 billion. Well, the stats haven’t necessarily panned out for the VR craze equivalent to all the hoopla it’s generated from media enthusiasts. However, to concede some ground to the VR aficionados, a report from Canalys has indicated that in the third quarter of 2017 more than 1 million HMD units were sold.
GamesIndustry.biz is reporting that Sony moved 490,000 units of the PlayStation VR in the last quarter, while Oculus moved 210,000 Rift units, and HTC moved 160,00 Vive units. The article notes that 2018 could be big given Microsoft’s push into the HMD market with their partnerships with companies like Lenovo, HP, and Dell for their seemingly affordable VR/AR bundles.
Nevertheless, some think the Q3 results are impressive because Canlys wasn’t counting portable-themed VR headsets such as the Google Daydream or Samsung Gear VR, which rely on smartphones to operate.
Canalys research analyst Vincent Thielke mentioned…
“VR adoption in the consumer segment is highly dependent on price, and Oculus’ strategy of lowering prices has definitely helped drive adoption,”
Oculus lowered the Rift’s price several times throughout the year, going down from $499 to $399 and recently discounting the HMD from $399 to $349 over the course of the Black Friday holiday weekend.
Even with all the discounts they still couldn’t overcome the power of the PlayStation brand, hence why the PSVR still topped out the charts.
Despite the supposed good news about hardware, what GamesIndustry.biz and Canalys fail to talk about is software.
So far VR software has rarely topped the charts either for PC or PlayStation.
Throughout the year we’ve seen a number of VR titles launched, but they haven’t been burning up the digital marketplace at all, much less the retail sector, which is monitored by the NPD.
If you put car of market research into reverse and slam on the gas, you’ll travel back to May of 2017 when Farpoint released along with the PlayStation Aim controller. Now fast forward a little bit to the May NPD figures that cover the release of the new PlayStation accessory and PSVR exclusive, and if you check VentureBeat’s top 20 for the NPD, Farpoint debuted at no. 16 out of 20. The following month, VentureBeat covered NPD’s June figures, which saw Farpoint slip out of the top 20 altogether.
July’s NPD figures were no different, with Farpoint and every other VR title nowhere to be seen on the retail top-selling list.
On the digital front Steam Spy keeps track of Steam releases, and if you check the VR tags on Steam Spy you’ll note that the more recent releases barely move over 1,500 units.
The most popular VR games are games that originally weren’t even VR to begin with but added some kind of VR update post-release. Obviously it muddies the waters when it comes time to compare how popular VR adoption rates are in the software consumer sector, but when you separate established brands that have sold millions and added a VR component in recent times to newer games that are VR exclusive, the numbers are quite telling.
Exclusive VR titles like The Talos Principle VR has only managed 7,000 units since launching on October 17th, 2017, while games like Gun Club VR have yet to surpass 2,000 units sold, as of the writing of this article.
One of the more popular recent releases is Guns ‘n’ Stories: Preface VR, which has managed to acquire 20,000 owners since launching on October 26th, 2017. However, it’s not hard racking up that many owners when the game can be downloaded and added to your library… for free.
There are a couple of outliers, like Raw Data, which managed to acquire close to 100,000 in sales… but that was after having a free weekend back in April of 2017, and after the game had been in Early Access for almost a year.
In short, one of the best selling VR titles on Steam, over the course of a year, managed to sell less than a third of what Football Manager 2018 managed to sell over the course of 20 days and at a $10 markup.
In short, even single-A titles with barely any marketing still run circles around VR software when it comes to sales.
Getting more hardware on the market doesn’t mean much when there’s no worthwhile or compelling software for consumers to consume.