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HTC Vive and Oculus Rift sales growth: why I’m not worried

VentureBeat reported that sales of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift “crashed to a halt” over the past couple of months.  This conclusion has been echoed by several media outlets.  It sounds disappointing until we examine what’s really going on.

The reported sales crash is based on a monthly Steam hardware survey.  The Steam store is used as a portal for buying games and apps for the HTC Vive. It has some Oculus games as well.  Since practically every HTC Vive owner uses Steam, it’s a representative population for HTC Vive ownership.  Not sure about Oculus Rift.  But in any case, let’s move on.
Among other things, the survey reported which of its users had a desktop VR headset (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift CV1, Oculus Rift DK2, or Oculus Rift DK1).  This is what was reported:

The left column shows the percentage of respondents who owned those systems.  The right column shows the increase or decrease compared to the previous month.
At first glance, the nearly zero growth on the right column seems to suggest that Vive and Rift sales have dried up.  However, that’s not exactly correct.  That’s because the right column is reporting on the change in the first column compared to the previous month.  The first column does not show sales, or even the number who own these desktop VR systems.  Rather, the first column shows the percentage of respondents with these systems.  Therefore what this chart shows is that the proportion of Steam users who got a desktop VR system has not changed.  Does this mean flat growth?  No.  It shows that the growth of desktop VR users has kept pace with the growth of the population of desktop VR systems.  In other words, the growth of desktop VR is the same as the growth of Steam users.  Put another way, the growth of the proportion of desktop VR users is flat.  That is very different from saying the growth of desktop VR users is flat.
Another important consideration is the Playstation VR.  It’s due for release on October 13.  In the game industry, it is very typical for sales to dwindle when a highly anticipated new system is about to be released, obviously because people are waiting for the new system instead of spending their money on the old system.  Sony is on the record for saying that Playstation VR does not compete with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.  However, the fact is that PSVR is a ‘real’ VR system, and anyone interested in VR will be considering the PSVR in addition to the Vive and the Rift.  And IMHO, the success or failure of the Playstation VR (not the Vive or Rift) will be the true test of VR mainstream acceptance.

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