Vir­tual Re­al­ity Sales Crash

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VR HAS BEEN the next big thing for so many years that it is has al­most be­come com­i­cal. Re­cent ad­vances in hard­ware, and back­ing by some big names, have pushed it back into the spot­light; how­ever, sales fig­ures for the last quar­ter have emerged, and it’s not good news. Sales are down 33.7 per­cent on the same time last year. The high-end teth­ered head­sets con­tracted by 37.3 per­cent. Stand­alone head­sets bucked the trend, but over­all num­bers are still very low; just 0.3 per­cent of Steam users can en­joy vir­tual worlds.

Th­ese are stark fig­ures, but there are con­so­la­tions. Pre­vi­ous sales fig­ures were in­flated by Sam­sung, Google, and Al­ca­tel bundling cheap screen­less VR view­ers; this has de­clined from over a mil­lion to around 400,000. And po­ten­tial growth is seen in the busi­ness and com­mer­cial sec­tors, but this is all the­ory so far.

The rea­sons be­hind VR’s slug­gish growth are man­i­fold: Peo­ple find it hard to try VR; there’s a lack of con­tent; and a be­wil­der­ing va­ri­ety of for­mats, from the cheap world of, es­sen­tially, strap­ping a phone to your head, all the way up to ex­pen­sive cus­tom sys­tems.

Some pun­dits have la­beled high-end PC-based gam­ing VR as dead. Harsh stuff. It’s clearly not healthy, though. We’ve still to see proper VR games be­ing de­vel­oped, writ­ten ground-up to de­liver a VR-fo­cused ex­pe­ri­ence. So far we have one: Res­i­den­tEvil7. Hard­ware 3D cards were equally pricey at launch, but quickly gained a plethora of ti­tles.

There is some­thing vi­tal miss­ing for VR, and that’s enough vo­cal, and fi­nan­cially en­thu­si­as­tic, peo­ple clam­or­ing for it. Mi­cro­soft’s move to drop the Xbox One VR head­set looks like a rea­son­able busi­ness de­ci­sion. VR is still not the next big thing.

Ocu­lus, Sony, and HTC only made about 100,000 sales each last quar­ter.

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