New World Notes

VR Active Users Steam September 2018 Road to VR

Active VR owners on Steam in September 2018, via Road to VR's estimate

Road to VR has an interesting report which combines usage rates of Steam, the largest platform for computer and VR games, with Steam's monthly Hardware & Software Survey, then came up with this estimate (above) for active VR owners on Steam.

"[I]t would be more accurate to call the figures above ‘Monthly Attached VR Headsets on Steam’ rather than ‘Monthly Active VR Users on Steam’," reporter Ben Lang allows, "though this is the closest indicator we’ve got to the latter." Fair enough. Based on that calculation, Oculus usage is somewhat ahead of Vive, and -- subtracting the smattering of Windows Mixed Reality headset owners -- there's a total of 600,000 active Oculus and Vive users total for September 2018 on Steam.

This number is pretty perplexing, because it's significantly lower than the estimated number of total Oculus and Vive sales at the beginning of 2017:

The companies that make the major headsets do not report their sales, and all of them said they were pleased with the results so far. SuperData Research, a technology research firm, estimated that Oculus had sold 360,000 headsets and HTC 450,000 since their products went on sale in March and June [2016], respectively. 

So at the start of 2017, about 810,000 Oculus/Vive units had been sold, but as of September 2018, only 600,000+ of them are attached to Steam. While not all Oculus and Vive headsets are attached to Steam, the number of HMDs which are attached should be much higher than 600K by now. But for some reason, actual usage is flat or even declining. 

The real mystery is why this is happening while 2018 has seen several legitimate breakout VR hits, including VRChat and of course Beat Saber. The likeliest explanation is that many existing Oculus and Vive owners have disconnected their devices to put them on the shelf, and there's not enough new owners connecting to Steam to grow the total number.

This does not mean all is lost -- Oculus' standalone headset Quest is launching next year, for instance, and may reverse this trend. But until we see massive growth, the real lesson for developers is to develop games and other experiences so they can be used by other platforms in addition to Vive and Oculus. Or if it's to costly to do so, not develop for Vive and Oculus at all.