Enlarge /. If the latest Steam hardware statistics from Steam are an indication of this, such parties may be taking place in your neighborhood. (Yes, we know that most of these models are headsets outside of the SteamVR ecosystem. If you'd like to model the images of our next VR article, send your photos to Aurich Lawson, stat.)
How well do virtual reality headsets sell? Since most of the main players in the sector are reluctant to sell, we have to draw an incomplete picture from various data. At least this month we have a fascinating new data point: an outbreak of the PC VR hardware, two months in a row.
Valves gaming marketplace Steam includes an opt-in hardware survey feature. The results are published monthly as a percentage of the users surveyed. You can find all types of data related to computers connected to Steam every month, including operating systems, graphics cards, VR systems and more. In the latter case, this number is counted by all Steam users – in contrast to a less helpful statistic such as "70 percent of VR fans prefer product A, 30 percent product B."
We were intrigued (but not surprised) that there was an increase in the number of connected VR devices in December 2019. After all, this is Christmas time, and Santa's delivery of headsets is expected to impact the data.
What surprised us was the continued growth of this metric the following month – statistically significant. According to the latest survey from January 2020, 1.31 percent of all Steam users surveyed have a VR system, after 1.09 percent in the previous month. In pure percentage points, this is the largest one-month increase in the pure percentage since Valve started tracking VR usage in 2016 – far from it. (The same survey found that 0.9 percent of Steam computers run Linux, while 3.0 percent use MacOS or OSX.)
At least a million
This part of Steam's January 2020 hardware survey includes percentages of all Steam users who have the listed VR systems connected to their machines. The green numbers indicate the percentage by which the collective ownership of each system has grown (green) or shrunk (red) since December 2019.
Steam has no public archive of its years of hardware surveys. This is the best evidence of the percentage of VR system owners when Valve started tracking connected VR systems between 2016 and 2017.
From there it is difficult to extrapolate a number for owning a PC VR headset. The last fixed count of all Steam users came from Valve in January 2019, when the company announced 90 million "monthly active users". Valve previously announced an MAU number of 67 million in August 2017. We can assume that the number has increased to some extent in the past 13 months. (Valve representatives did not immediately answer Ars' questions about Steam’s current MAU levels.)
In addition, the survey only counts ownership of the VR system when a headset is connected to a Steam user's computer at the time of the survey – as opposed to tracking usage of the VR software over the month. Tidy VR users who unhook and stow their headsets when not in use are not counted. This is a likely use case for anyone using the current Oculus Link feature, which is only available for the otherwise portable Oculus Quest system.
We shouldn't forget that there are likely to be a significant number of Oculus system owners who, thanks to the Oculus Home landing zone (which loads an all-in-one storefront when users take off a Rift, Rift S, or Quest headset) not connecting to Steam their eyes).
If we rely on the painfully conservative MAU number of 90 million, we will reach 1.17 million PC VR users connecting to Steam. If we draw an exponential trend line from Steam-MAU between August 2017 and January 2019, we are approaching a number of 1.6 million active VR hardware owners on Steam, and this does not include an estimate by Steam-ignorant Oculus users.
However you slice it, the juiciest detail cannot be argued: a jump of 20.2% within a large PC VR ecosystem in 30 days. How much is this? Now, in the past 13 months, from December 2018 to January 2020, the entire sector has increased by 0.29 percentage points from 0.8 percent of all users to 1.09 percent. (In other words, a jump of 36.25% over this period.)
The missing link?
During that time, Valve, Oculus, and HTC each launched at least one brand new consumer system in 2019, while prices for solid Windows Mixed Reality options, especially Ars-approved Samsung Odyssey +, bottomed out. Ar's choice for the best VR system of 2019, the Oculus Quest, launched in April as a "standalone" VR system – meaning it couldn't connect to PCs and have their better VR experience , With the party trick "Oculus Link", however, this changed in November.
Curiously, Oculus Quest isn't listed as a SteamVR headset option in the January 2020 Steam poll. This may be because Oculus Link works effectively like an Oculus Rift S when connected to the SteamVR software suite. Valve can only report what a connected headset reports, and the Quest hardware fakes as far as the connection to SteamVR is concerned, like a Rift S.
Coincidentally, the latest Steam hardware survey shows a dramatic increase in Oculus Rift S owners, up 33 percent from the previous month. No other base for headset installation has grown so dramatically. However, we can only guess how much of this jump was caused by Rift S hardware and / or Quest hardware. Both have had a fair share of Christmas sales in the past few months, and we're still waiting to hear from Oculus and its parent company Facebook about the sales of these platforms.
In particular, Valve's own index hardware suite did not make a massive leap in this survey. To what extent this depends on Valve's own hardware bottlenecks is unclear. The last data point on index system sales came from an external source. A total of 107,000 systems had been sold by the end of 2019.
Had the statistics specifically pointed to Windows Mixed Reality systems, we might have come to the conclusion that some sales of inventory statements were the culprit. Instead, this increase in relative ownership may be due to positive reviews of hardware and software across the board. 2019 ended with the launch of three high profile single player VR games: Boneworks, Asgard & # 39; s Wrath and Stormlands. (Boneworks has been launched on multiple PC VR platforms, while the other two games are exclusive to Oculus Storefront, unless you're dealing with "Revive" tricks.) Or maybe the announcement of a VR exclusive episode in Half -Life series coming out next month For all PC VR platforms, it is sufficient to send a statistically significant ripple through the VR sector.
On the other hand, if you're looking for reasons to pessimistic about the popularity of PC-VR, Valve has another gold mine for you: measuring software statistics daily. At the time of printing, only one VR app, VRChat, is listed in the "Top 100" list of games and apps with the most simultaneous players. For a much firmer count of the SteamVR player base, let's imagine that all eyes will be on this stats page as soon as Half-Life: Alyx starts next month (assuming Valve Time doesn't hit).
PlayStation VR remains an outlier of these statistics, although Sony has regularly released sales of this isolated platform that requires a PlayStation 4 console to function. During its CES 2020 keynote, Sony announced 5 million lifetime sales of PSVR hardware, after 4.2 million in March 2019.