High PC hardware requirements are one reason why VR is often touted as being highly expensive, but as GPUs have gotten more powerful and cheaper over time, more people than ever have ‘VR Ready’ hardware, even if they didn’t buy it specifically for that purpose. Today an estimated 58 million Steam users already have one of the most expensive parts of the VR Ready equation: a powerful GPU that meets the VR industry’s recommended specifications.

Updated – May 9th, 2020

In The Beginning…

At the end of 2015, just a few months before the first consumer VR headsets would launch in early 2016, NVIDIA estimated that roughly 13 million VR Ready PCs existed in the market. At the time, only mid to high-end enthusiast GPUs—starting at $330 and going upwards of $650—met the de facto ‘VR Ready’ recommended specifications which asked for a minimum of an AMD Radeon R9 290 or an Nvidia GTX 970. Much has changed since then.

NVIDIA’s GTX 1060, which is VR Ready, is currently the most popular GPU on Steam with a market share of 11.46%. | Photo courtesy NVIDIA

VR Ready GPUs Today

New generations of GPUs have launched from both AMD and Nvidia, bringing more power at lower costs, while at the same time expanding the pool of people with VR Ready graphics cards by making lower-cost cards powerful enough to handle VR.

Today you can easily pick up a VR Ready GPU on the cheap from Amazon, like the Nvidia GTX 1650 Super for $160 or the AMD RX 5500 XT for $180.

Advancements in NVIDIA’s latest laptop GPUs also mean that a much larger number of VR Ready laptops exist today than did prior to the company’s 10-series GPUs.

58 Million Strong

The impact of this lower cost and more powerful hardware has been dramatic in terms of the number of VR Ready GPUs on the market. Today, we estimate that 58 million Steam users have PCs equipped with VR Ready GPUs. How do we figure? Glad you asked.

Steam handily makes available a nice set of regularly update stats breaking down the hardware specs of their users; it isn’t a sample of all Steam users—data is only collected from those who opt to take the survey—but Valve represents it as an accurate tally of its population.

The Radeon RX 580 is the most popular VR Ready GPU from AMD among Steam users with a 1.85% share | Photo courtesy AMD

Pulling out the VR Ready GPUs from the latest stats tells us that 41.01% of sampled Steam users have VR Ready GPUs. Combined with Road to VR‘s Steam population model—which is based on historical survey data, along with official data points directly from Valve and Steam—we estimate that 41.01% represents 58 million VR Ready GPUs on Steam.

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That’s a far, far greater number than the current combined estimates of PC VR headset sales to date, but it’s certainly good news for headset makers and the VR industry, as it means the pre-existing install base to sell VR headsets into has greatly expanded in the last several years.

Given that 41% of Steam’s population has a VR Ready GPU, it’s surprising how often we still hear PC gamers say that VR is too costly because of the hardware requirements—in many cases the people making such arguments may be blissfully unaware that they already have the requisite hardware. This suggests that major PC VR players like Oculus, HTC, and Valve stand to collectively benefit simply by educating consumers that their hardware may already be capable of running VR experiences.

Further Discussion and Considerations

In the interest of thoroughness, here’s a few notes you should know about our approach to this estimate and a few things worth thinking about.

First, we only looked into the GPUs that met the de facto ‘VR Ready’ standard, which is a general (but not exact) agreement among industry players as to what GPUs are powerful enough for VR. For this estimate we stuck with GPUs which meet or exceed official “recommended” VR specs from the likes of NVIDIA, AMD, Oculus, and HTC.

In addition to the “recommended” ‘VR Ready’ spec, Oculus has its own slightly lower ‘Minimum Spec’ that relies on ASW technology to offer a smooth VR experience on less powerful hardware. If we add those cards into our estimate, it significantly increases the total pool of VR-capable GPUs on Steam to 76 million.

Second, a number of VR Ready GPUs are not represented in the Steam stats, especially ‘Pro’ cards like Nvidia’s Quadro and AMD’s Radeon Pro and W-series cards. Some very high end cards, like Nvidia’s Titan series are also not seen in the stats. Our guess is that a combination of sample size and market share of those cards may render them insignificant in the stats, and/or they may get lumped into the survey’s ‘Other’ figure.

Third, a system is not completely VR Ready by the GPU alone; the CPU also needs to meet a certain bar, and there’s a few specifics surrounding USB versions, port count, HDMI versions, and operating system. Based on the stats available, there’s no way for us to combine the CPU and GPU stats to identify individual systems which contain both a VR Ready GPU and a VR Ready CPU. If you want to know if your PC meet all the requirements, check out the headset-specific requirements see if your PC is VR Ready.

How to Tell if Your PC is VR Ready

Forth, this estimate only addresses Steam users, not the entire ‘universe’ of PC gamers. Though it can be reasonably argued that a great majority of PC gamers with the sort of hardware we’re talking about are also Steam users.

And finally, fifth, many of the same cards that were considered VR Ready at the launch of the Rift and Vive in early 2016 are still considered VR Ready today in 2020, despite the latest wave of cards bringing improvements in performance. That means that in addition to VR Ready GPUs simply being more prominent, part of the expansion in the number of people with such GPUs is being driven by the fact that the VR Ready recommended spec has been expanding in breadth. At some point, when it gets a little too wide, it’s likely that we’ll see the recommended spec drop a few of the older cards off the roster, but most likely not until the next generation of VR headsets.

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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."
  • NooYawker

    Not surprising, most people who buy high end GPU’s are gamers and gamers use steam.

  • Sponge Bob

    Hard core gamers use at least 2 wide hi-res monitors next to each other
    Once the price of hi-res tethered VR headset comes down to 300$ it will be cheaper than those monitors to buy and will give full immersion experience, even if sitting on the chair
    The VR industry inflection point is nearing (late 20017 or 2018 ???)
    Tethered VR headsets have a bright future

    • Firestorm185

      Yeah, and finding even 1080p used monitors is pretty cheap, just think of how it will be a few years from now when it’s that way but for used VR headsets. >v<

      • Sponge Bob

        Ebay is full of used DK2s for about 100$ – a pretty decent buy considering it runs on 5 years old NVidia GPUs and outdated (I7 + Nvidia) laptops

    • Trenix

      In VR, you can already bring up your computer and have multiple windows playing. It’s a matter of time before you can use a virtual keyboard and mouse to play games and have multiple screens next to you within VR.

      • I return from the future. We’re not quite there yet but we’re VERY close.

    • Lucidfeuer

      No hardcore gamers uses 2+ hi-res monitors, “competitive” and couch gamers may but they’re a minority you should only cater too if you want easy money from stupid tasteless people.

  • Well, this confirms that adoption will come, since price entry point is lowering

    • Sebastien Mathieu


  • Andrew Jakobs

    Oh comeon, this is really lame.. Just create a GD new article..

  • Let me know wen they have VR ready cpus…

    • B mill

      They do now, it’s practically any Intel or AMD chip made within the last 7 or 8 years. Unfortunately they need to be paired with a VR ready GPU.

      • Gotta make sure they runn all VR games at 90 fps. Quite a feat for a non ryzen chip from AMD.

        • Sven Viking

          The best consumer hardware available won’t be able to runall VR games at 90fps. (Also Rift S is 80Hz and for Index someone could argue they need to be able to run games at 120 or 144fps for maximum immersion). Being able to run the bulk of games smoothly is good enough to be called “VR ready”.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Why would you forecast a decrease in PC sales? Non-existent Android and bleeding Apple computer markets have been increasingly driving the need for both serious PC and GPU configurations for a few years.

  • ADHR

    I think most users are children who look for entairtenement not for an immersif way to play. VR needs to be not just immersif but beautiful. Next VR headset generation have to be full resolution (no screen door effect)

    • B mill

      Immersion has to be experienced. If you read about it and don’t actually try it, you’ll never know. VR is Amazing right now. Immersion is so amazing you don’t notice the things like god rays and SDE. What do I know though, I’ve had this thing for 2 years and have no desire to play monitor games despite their higher resolution.

      • ADHR

        Because me and you look for immersion. not the case for boys or children who look first for fun.
        I play VR since 2013 and I can’t return back to play in flat screen except for mobile games.
        But I find the actual resolution is a real obstacle for VR.

        • Kraufthauser

          I think what’s holding back VR is a solid stream of AAA games. Especially well known IP’s like Assassins’s Creed, Bioshock etc.

  • oompah

    Steam should now offer both VR & non-VR games
    without the requirement of GPU
    i.e. game streaming
    for this, steam should have GPU servers where
    games will be run actually but meant to streamed a video
    Benefits: huge number of customers who want to play
    on any device i.e. cellphones, tablets , simple laptops, AR/VR devices etc.
    Say u r having free time , simply start a streaming game
    on ur device , start playing .
    It can even be used for 3D VR based news content
    say something happened somewhere & ur VR device will
    transport you there where u can see news
    in vr as if u r there.
    Say u see casting couch king Weinstein arrested in VR
    how satisfying , many would like to
    spit on his face (actually their own walls)
    or see rocket launch in its full glory .
    Actually to me, watching 3D VR news streaming in real time
    would be much more satisfying than gaming

  • Jim P

    I’m with the 1060 waiting for the 3000. I don’t want to play my PC Quest on low settings. Bought all the games but waiting for sweet specs.

  • Great update of the analysis!

  • Greyl

    If the rumours are true, that the 3060 will be comparable to a 2080 and offer excellent Ray Tracing support, we could be looking at the new GPU king.

  • Albert Hartman

    Technology just steadily improves in time. After a couple of years you won’t be able to buy a non VR-capable computer. Just like you now can’t get a non-smart phone.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Sorry, but this is just lame… ‘updating’ a 2 year old article…

    • benz145

      Did you want me to spend time rewriting 95% of the same information? That’s time saved that can be spent writing articles with new information, while providing more recent and therefore more valuable information in this article.

  • silvaring

    Are some of you guys noobs to roadtovr or just bots? Look up ‘vergence accommodation conflict’ and then tell me that current VR is immersive enough and screen door is the only thing you need for greater immersion.