The release of Half-Life: Alyx (2020) on Steam in late March brought along with it nearly one million additional monthly-connected VR headsets, a record gain in SteamVR users. Valve just released its Steam Hardware Survey for May, and it seems there’s been zero pull-back in connected headsets one month after the usership surge.

In fact, the recorded number of VR headsets has actually gone up by a fraction, going from April’s 1.91% to 1.92% in May.

It wouldn’t have been that strange to see at least some reduction month-over-month since the game’s launch, as people plugged in for Half-Life: Alyx alone and then simply left after the last headcrab was vanquished. The numbers suggest however that new users might just be staying around for more than just HLA, which in our review took us 12 hours to beat.

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The actual makeup of connected VR headsets has changed a bit however over the last month, with many major PC VR headsets such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, and Valve Index losing a fraction of a percentage.

Connected Oculus Quest headsets, which account for 7.46% of the total number of connect headsets now, made a gain of 1.43% in May alone—making for the largest increase among the lot.

Valve Releases 'Half-Life: Alyx' Steam Workshop Tools for Making & Downloading Mods

This steady growth in Quest users could be attributed both to Facebook’s continual (if not sporadic) restocking of the largely sold out headset combined with the recently revised standard for Oculus Link, which now allows lets Quest users play Steam games by connecting to VR-ready PCs with the stock charging/data cable that comes in the box.

Granted, Valve’s monthly Steam Hardware Survey only tells a part of the story when it comes to its VR users. Those headsets are indeed plugged in, but there’s no telling how active that new userbase truly is; that will likely require a longer time frame to see whether those gains are a new floor for continued growth or a transient spike in users. Considering the wealth of content generated over the past four years though, it’s very likely those users are here to stay.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Kyokushin

    Its still a niche. VR need more games like Alyx.

    • impurekind

      Hopefully the upcoming Medal of Honor game will be one of those. . . .

      • Andrew Jakobs

        but that one is Oculus only…

        • gothicvillas


        • impurekind

          Perfect for me! :D

    • kontis

      4K monitors are only 0.25% more popular, but when you look at the internet, articles, game support, benchmarks, comments etc. you get impression that they should be a muuuuch bigger thing than VR headsets.

    • LoneWuff326

      You probably own a google cardboard thats why its niche to you

      • Kyokushin

        I owe a HP Reverb, and it does not change a fact VR is still a niche, more good games and better headsets are needed.

        In pas i had Acer VR, Odyssey+, few cardboards and few smartphone based crap.

        • Everything was once niche before it became mainstream.

          Every single piece of tech and non tech.

          All things have their roles. Small and big.

        • Mradr

          VR is leaving niche status – now 4k is niche lol

    • LoneWuff326

      you dont even own vr so why are you here

    • mirak

      stop with that word “niche”
      you don’t buy a niche product at wallmart

      • benz145

        VR is niche. Why would you argue with this? That doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable and cannot one day go beyond being niche. Smartphones used to be niche too.

        • david vincent

          Yep, and I’m afraid VR will stay a niche until we have eliminated all friction (the wearing of goggles). Not sure if long-distance retinal projection is physically possible tho…

          • Mradr

            I would argue VR is having a hard time even keeping up with the demand right now – niches don’t have that problem and a first sign its NOT a niche anymore.

    • Dylan

      Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is right up there as a nearly AAA level game. I loved it.

    • M0rph3u5

      VR is “a niche” basically means “I am shallow minded”. VR isn’t a game console or merely an entertainment device! VR is a versatile technology had been embrased for years now in the space, health, science, military, arch.Vis, education, businesses and the list goes on.. so please do a bit of a research before you make a poor statement like this

  • impurekind

    And I hope it continues.

  • kontis

    Does the Oculus Quest field count only the Link or also the Virtual Desktop app?

    • MeowMix

      Supposedly it counts both

  • Sven Viking

    I expect Alyx drew in huge numbers of people (and would have drawn in more if not for hardware shortages), but I still think at least part of the rise is likely related to the changes to the way the Steam Hardware Survey counts VR owners. Although the changes were implemented during the month before the HL:A release, there were several things indicating the changes may not have been fully in effect or may not have been working correctly for the full month, such as Valve altering the totals several times after the results were published.

    • benz145

      I don’t think so. The changes to the survey methodology should have been reflected well before the Half-Life: Alyx spike, according to Valve.

      Further, if that obvious spike that we see is *not* HLA, then where is the HLA spike or the drop-off that would be expected to follow?

      • Sven Viking

        Like I said, I’m taking a guess based on a number of factors. Could easily be wrong.

        1. This is no evidence in itself, but what I read said Valve was implementing changes in March, not that all changes had already been implemented when March began.

        2. Valve altered the VR figures in the March Hardware Survey results multiple times in the days following their April publication, seeming to indicate not all was right with their VR counting system.

        3. Valve said most of the counting takes place early in the month, meaning any teething problems may have affected the bulk of March survey submissions.

        4. Valve said themselves they expected a bump in figures following the changes — however the bump didn’t seem as large as might be intuitively expected, especially when considering that some portion of the Alyx Effect should also have been visible in March. Some people started ordering headsets as soon as the game was announced, others following the release date announcement, etc. — not everyone would have received and plugged them in for the first time on the game’s release date.

        As to where the HL:A spike would be if this is correct: in April where you’d expect it.

        An Alyx-related drop would be visible with or without the affect of survey changes so is irrelevant to this question as far as I can figure? If anything it would be expected to be more visible if 100% of the rise was directly attributable to Alyx, not less.

    • Mradr

      One thing to take note – the hardware survey doesn’t account for Oculus Quest headsets – so even the numbers are off as well.

      • Sven Viking

        It counts Quest headsets used with Steam via Oculus Link — not sure about wireless streaming via something like Virtual Desktop though.

  • huh

    The mods/maps that are coming out now are keeping me playing Alyx.
    And fingers crossed for something truely unique too be thought up by some modder.
    We VReers can do with more AAA content.

  • mfx

    This is Alyx + covid.
    VR will go mainstream when headset become glasses.

    • mirak

      It’s already main stream, you can buy it anywhere.
      It’s just the content is poor.

  • Well well well, this is a great piece of news. I expected it to drop a bit, and it has not happened. So people are keeping considering VR even after Alyx… wow