Valve’s monthly Steam Survey has long offered useful insight into the share of VR headsets in use on Steam. But the figures provided are relative to the non-static Steam population, which obfuscates the actual adoption trend of VR headsets on the platform. To demystify the data, Road to VR has developed a proprietary model which derives actual headset counts by correcting for Steam’s changing population. The latest data shows that monthly-connected VR headsets on Steam have reached a record high of 1.3 million in December.

Introduction

Each month Valve collects info from Steam users to determine some baseline statistics about what kind of hardware and software is used by the platform’s population, and to see how things are changing over time; that includes which VR headsets are connected to users’ computers. Participation in the survey is optional, and headsets aren’t counted if they aren’t powered on and recognized by Steam at the moment that the data is collected.

Data is captured over the course of the month, which tells us how many headsets were connected to users’ PCs over that time period; we call the resulting figure ‘monthly-connected headsets’ for clarity.

While Valve’s data has been a useful way see which headsets are most popular on Steam, the trend of monthly-connected headsets has always been obfuscated because the data points are exclusively given as percentages relative to Steam’s population—which itself is an unstated and constantly fluctuating figure.

To demystify the data, Road to VR has created a model based on the historical data, along with official data points directly from Valve and Steam, which corrects for Steam’s changing population to estimate the actual count—not the percent—of users on Steam with connected VR headsets.

Monthly-connected VR Headsets on Steam

Data gap from seven months of data misreported by Valve

After correcting for Steam’s changing population, we find that December 2019 reached a new record high with an estimated 1,342,000 monthly-connected VR headsets on Steam, beating the previous record set in September 2019 of 1,218,000 headsets. Year over year, monthly-connected headsets are up 75%.

Worth noting about the results: we’re talking about monthly-connected headsets here, as the underlying Steam Survey data is a snapshot of activity for each month. In the case of VR headsets, that means that the figure we’re estimating is how many unique headsets are connected to Steam users’ PCs over the course of a given month; it’s the closest official data point we have to active headsets, but doesn’t tell us the extent to which those headsets are actually being used, nor does it tell us much about gross VR headset sales figures.

Furthermore, the Steam Survey comes from a sample of the user population, not a comprehensive census—though Valve maintains the data offers an accurate snapshot. And of course, these figures are only inclusive of Steam, and don’t offer a complete picture of activity on the Oculus PC platform (or any insight at all on Oculus Quest and Sony’s PlayStation VR).

Trend Line

As with our previous analyses, the growth of monthly-connect headsets on Steam continues to closely fit an exponential curve with an R² value of 0.986, starting from the month that the first consumer headsets hit the market back in 2016.

It’s not clear how long this trend will continue, but we can make a (naive) projection based on what we’re seeing today by drawing out the line. Doing so suggests some 2.75 million monthly-connected headsets by the end of 2020.

Data gap from seven months of data misreported by Valve

Of course this projection is purely drawing out the exponential line, and doesn’t attempt to account for an array of other factors: crucially, in a young market like VR, things like cost, new features, and innovative content (or lack thereof) stand to influence the trend in significant ways. We certainly expect that the release of Half-Life: Alyx in March will have an immediate and lingering impact on the trend.

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Steam VR Headset Marketshare

Looking at the latest Steam Survey data in detail for December 2019, we can see that the percent of the Steam population with connected headsets rose to 1.09% from the month prior (+0.07%). That figure continues to grow, having surpassed Steam’s Linux population for the first time back in January 2019; it would seem that the next big milestone for VR on Steam will be to surpass the OSX Steam population, which is still pretty far away at 3.06% of Steam users.

Breaking down the marketshare of headsets on Steam in December 2019: the Oculus Rift S saw a huge leap over the prior month to 18.46% (+3.63%), and Index saw a strong gain as well, now holding 6.67% (+1.74%) of the share of headsets on Steam.

Most of those gains came from losses in the original HTC Vive which is down to 29.75% (-2.89%), the original Oculus Rift at 33% (-2.55%), and Windows Mixed Reality headsets at 8.78% (-0.27%).

HTC’s latest headset, Vive Cosmos, has only gained a paltry 0.41% of the share of headsets on Steam. The figure is so low compared to contemporary headsets that if it isn’t an outright error, sales of the headset must be vanishingly few. All HTC headsets on Steam still account for 32.58% of the share, but this has been on a steady decline, losing 11.06% since the same time last year.

Oculus has soaked up much of those loses, with the Rift and Rift S collectively holding 51.46% of the share of headsets on Steam, a gain of 5.01% since the same time last year. And though is hasn’t grown as fast as the cheaper Rift S, Valve’s high-end Index headset has seen surprising traction, quickly surpassing HTC’s Vive Pro just two months after its launch, now holding 6.67% of the share compared to Vive Pro’s 2.42%.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Zantetsu

    I’m so glad we’re beyond the knee-jerk Rift vs. Vive flamewars. I think alot of that was caused by the early roomscale vs. non-roomscale debates, but now that everyone recognizes that roomscale is important and *all* headsets support it, the debate is over.

    I bought an Index and have owned it for over a month and haven’t even used it yet. I am waiting for Alyx to draw me back into VR.

    • D-_-RAiL

      Saints and Sinners is pretty awesome

      • aasdfa

        same with boneworks!

    • Jukka Muhonen

      You are getting old without vr

    • Jukka Muhonen

      You meant you have index controllers, not index.

      • Zantetsu

        Eh? I have the headset and the controllers.

    • impurekind

      The debate was never ever about roomscale vs non-roomscale; it was about what Rift offered vs what Vive offered. And, if you want to get into that again, from the day it was released until current times, the Rift has always offered the far better all round value proposition. Once it did get roomscale it wasn’t even a debate.

      • crim3

        They were absurd tribal discussions, so yes, aside the more or less rational discussions, there were some people arguing against room-scale VR, seated VR, lighthouse tracking, constellation tracking, etc. In summary, “everything in my system of preference is superior to yours.” We can assume that this agressive and blind fanatism was from a minority, but still it was pretty scary seeing how fanatism can emerge from about any subject imaginable, including VR tech.

      • Zantetsu

        To answer your question, NO, I do not want to get into that again. But “thanks” for reminding me of what it was like …

  • Keith X

    Assuming you’re correct, excellent work. I’ve not connected my headset for about a year due to lack of content. I even gave me rechargeables away but I just received new new ones today in anticipation of giving Alyx a whirl. But only if I’ll be able to use WMR’s joystick for smooth locomotion in Alyx, I hope so.

    • asdf

      no content wtf?

      • Keith X

        Obviously I implied compelling content. I consider VR to be 95% crap right now.

        • Immersive Computing

          Surely It’s not all cr@p?

          There are a handful of compelling applications I thoroughly enjoy, and more coming…

          • Keith X

            Not all, just 95%. I haven’t tried any VR in the last year. I have about 50 VR titles and never made a refund request to support the industry. I considered and ruled out many others. The only titles I liked enough to keep playing were SkyrimVR, Audioshield and Google Earth VR. I stopped playing Audioshield when Google cut-off YouTube access. I tried Beat Saber for more than 20 hours but I didn’t like it. Losing Audioshield was the beginning of the end of VR for me. I also hate textureless graphics.

  • Bumpy

    Yeah, all the Quest users finally realized how much better the games look and play when they use a cable with PCVR.

    • asdf

      um no, most of us have been streaming to our quests since day 2 and have the quest for its mobility…

  • Thanks, Ben.

    … “which corrects for Steam’s changing population ” …

    So what’s the MAU number you calculate with?

  • ShiftyInc

    According to Superdata the Index has sold 103,000 units after Half-Life: Alyx announcement putting it at 149.000 sold (give or take a few) So that is not a bad start either for a brand new headset.

    In Q4 alone, PlayStation VR was the top-selling headset with 338,000 units, followed closely by the Oculus Quest with 317,000. So looks like more and more people are jumping on the VR wagon, good as it has proven that it is not just a gimmick.

    • Mei Ling

      VR cannot be a gimmick but it can only be perceived as a gimmick :)

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    • cartweet

      Superdata’s data is absolute garbage. Before sony released PSVR numbers superdata made some estimated guesses. They were off by a few million lol. Who knows how wrong they are with these guesses.

      • ShiftyInc

        Those numbers you are talking about was for forecast data. Analitical companies always make those guesses when something new comes on the market (its their job) The actual sale numbers they have been giving out for numerous products have been pretty spot on.

        • cartweet

          They are always way off when it comes to VR. They constantly revise their estimates. The fact that they said index outsold rift-s should tell you how inaccurate they are. Valve’s own survey which is as close to hard numbers as there is (and doesn’t even include rift owners that don’t use steam) shows rift-s had a greater increase in user base.

          The problem is that Superdata’s sources don’t include unit sales from oculus themselves. They have zero idea how many are sold direct which is why Palmer even said they’re always way off. He was saying this while he was still employed at oculus so he obviously knew the actual numbers.

    • fdad

      Something being purchased by a lot of people doesn’t prove that it’s not just a gimmick. Take a look at 3D TVs and Wii fit tablets. Extremely gimmicky and sold more than the VR numbers posted here. Please do NOT ad populum.

  • Darcon Wow

    These numbers don’t match the more detailed charts on the other site? Their chart says 1.09% of all users, that is with the revised numbers. Also, it shows flat growth and just equaling the September 2019 numbers. Which one is correct?

  • marcushast

    No, that’s not what Steam is measuring, and you mention it in the introduction text.

    The numbers from steam measure what the hardware configuration is *at the time of the survey*. It says *nothing* about what hardware has been connected over the month and then disconnected. (As one is likely to do with a VR headset.)

    • Rosko

      Why would you disconnect it?

      • mellott124

        I have multiple systems. I don’t always keep them all connected. These days usually my Index and sometimes Rift S. CV1 and Quest don’t stay connected for sure. Or my Pimax when I had that one. Too many cables to the back of the PC so I remove them when I’m not using them.

        • Rosko

          Yeah i have multiple systems & in that case it makes sense but the op implies that having a vr headset means its likely, not necessarily because of multiple devices.

          • ShiftyInc

            I always disconnect my headset, much better for its life expectancy. Otherwise it will always be powered no matter if you use it or not.

          • Jonathan Winters III

            Me too.

  • callen

    A reasonable person could assume that a sizable part of the spike in Rift S numbers comes from Quest users on Oculus Link. I hope that steam can eventually tease out the difference between the two HMD’s (maybe a way to count number of hardware cameras?) and provide that number separately.

    • Blaexe

      We still don’t know whether Quest counts as Rift S though. Also most Quest users won’t keep it connected and I guess that only a minority of Quest users also own a gaming PC.

      Unfortunately it’s impossible to tell. And keep in mind Rift S has been sold out for weeks too.

    • Jonathan Winters III

      Also, Rift S was on sale in the holiday season.

  • CHRIS

    seems like we have more steamVR users than xbox one users!

  • JesuSaveSouls

    No pimax ?

  • DickDastardly

    “Monthly connected headsets” has a specific meaning: the number of headsets which were connected at any point during the month. The Steam data does not tell us this, it is just a snapshot for each user polled of what they had connected at the time of the survey.

    If, for example, the average user only has their headset connected half of the time then monthly connected headsets will be twice as high as the Steam figure. Similarly, if the average user only has their headset connected one day a month then monthly connected headsets will be ~30 times higher than the Steam figure.

    The only way we could know the true number of monthly connected headsets would be if Valve set a flag for each user/HMD combo to zero at the start of the month and then changed it to 1 if the user connected that HMD at any point during the month (and then published that data).

    • Immersive Computing

      In the 3 years of owning PCVR (Vive, Rift CV1, Lenovo Explorer, Index) and using steamVR I’ve never taken part in Steam survey. My headsets are disconnected when not in use and put away in safe storage.

  • NooYawker

    It looks like many Vive users are upgrading to the Index. Which is what I would do if I could buy an Index.

    • Squid

      Yep. When HTC screwed Valve over, Valves initial plans of releasing an affordable VR gaming centric headset were largely dashed, especially with Oculus moving in on that market. Fortunately they correctly shifted plans to aim for the upgrade market that HTC had left themselves incredibly vulnerable to, due to their obnoxious refusal to offer their own upgrade or anything that might overshadow the Vive-Pro for a reasonable price. Vive users were desperate for a general visual upgrade, but didn’t want to sacrifice the advantages and unique features that lighthouse tracking offered them. HTC itself meanwhile naively floundered in an attempt to compete with both Oculus and Valve simultaneously with the Cosmos, which arrived late and failed to adequately satisfy what either end of the market actually wanted. Literally all they had to do was cut the price of the Vive-Pro down to a sub Index price tag, and they would have remained plenty relevant, without needing to invest all that wasted money on Cosmos.

  • I wonder how many of those Rift S users are actually Quest users with Link

  • JB1968

    So does that mean number of PCVR users is quite a minority when comparing to PSVR 4+ million user base?

    • NooYawker

      Yes, and I think PSVR is at 5 million. PS gave their consumers an easy buy into VR. Which is why Xbox once again will sell a fraction of what PS sells.

  • Cragheart

    I wonder how long will the number keep doubling year over year.