There has been a great deal of speculation and anticipation this year surrounding the rollout of virtual reality products to the mass market. Since the outset of 2016, expectations have been running extraordinarily high, and rightfully so, considering the far-reaching potential this very nascent industry brings to the table. Last month BI Intelligence Daily forecasted that global shipments of VR headsets would spike to 8.2 million in 2016 and propel the VR space to exceed $1 billion in its first year.
This is an ambitious projection to be sure, even for a game-changing technology as revolutionary as VR. Therefore, as we enter the final stretch of the holiday season and veritable peak of consumer purchasing, industry insiders have been intently examining available statistics to benchmark the industry’s growth and determine whether it is taking off at a pace that is in line with market expectations.
While the industry has undoubtedly made significant strides throughout the course of this year, its momentum thus far during the holiday season has served as a somewhat sobering reality check. SuperData recently revised its 2016 forecast, calling for under 750,000 PlayStation VR units to be sold and 261,000 Google Daydream units sold. Meanwhile, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Gear VR remained consistent at 420,000, 355,000 and 2.3 million, respectively.
Sony is uniquely suited for success in VR. It benefits from an existing consumer base of over 50 million PS4 owners (making the processes of upgrading to VR much easier) and a moderate price point of $399. Due to this competitive advantage, Sony currently commands the greatest portion of market share for VR, which is now estimated at 30%.
While no official numbers for 2016 have been released by Sony, the overall reception of the product has been strong. Shuhei Yoshida (Sony Interactive Entertainment Head of Worldwide Studios) underscored this point in a recent interview and noted that the company was most surprised by the duration that its users were spending inside of their headsets. Yoshida did not reveal which games were being played the most, but Sony has confirmed that Batman: Arkham VR and Job Simulator are selling best on the PlayStation Store.
PSVR’s six-month roller-coaster ride serves as an interesting case study and provides a useful lesson that will be important to remember as the industry continues to unfold. Certainly, 8.2 million headsets looks to be a bit of a stretch for VR’s debut year; however, the biggest stretch of all, at this point, would be to label VR the “biggest loser” of the holiday season. Point-blank, this is only the beginning. The best content is yet to come, the ecosystem will continue to consolidate and provide a more ubiquitous experience and at a much more affordable price. So, while industry analysts may have jumped the gun in anticipating just how quickly widespread adoption would occur, the end result has remained unchanged. VR is and will continue to disrupt the digital landscape.