When it comes to Google searches, “HTC Vive” has recently matched “Oculus Rift” and may be continuing to rise.

Google searches for “Oculus Rift” have enjoyed steady popularity since 2013 with major spikes hitting after the company’s announcement that it had been acquired by Facebook in 2014, and as the headset finally opened for pre-orders earlier this year. As it was introduced two years before PlayStation VR and three years before the HTC Vive, the name “Oculus Rift” was for a long time synonymous with “virtual reality”, in the same way that Apple’s “iPod” was for a time a layman’s term for any MP3 player. As the market matures however, serious competition for name recognition has begun.

htc vive oculus rift search volume 2012-2016

“HTC Vive” didn’t exist as a search term until the headset’s relatively recent reveal back in early 2015. For the first year or so of the headset’s life, it struggled to compete in search volume, but an inflection point came at the end of the 2015 which triggered rapid growth in searches, eventually matching and holding steady at the same level as “Oculus Rift” starting in April, 2016.
htc vive oculus rift search volume-3

Zooming in to our chart closer, we can see that “HTC Vive” and “Oculus Rift” search volume has traded leading positions over the last 90 days, but the most recent data may show “HTC Vive” accelerating above and beyond “Oculus Rift”.

See Also: HTC Vive Headset Nearing 100,000 Install Base, Steam Data Suggests

Search volume is a good indicator of relative brand awareness, more so than purchase intent or attitude toward the product as even negative events can generate search interest.

The yellow line, which represents search volume for “PlayStation VR” shows us that Sony’s headset still has substantial ground to make up compared to its two major competitors, though a better comparison will be seen once the headset launches in October (as the Vive and Rift already have). That said, a powerful showing at E3 2016 this year showed a big spike for the term which has clearly led to an increase in search volume on the other side of that spike.

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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."
  • Brad Blackmere

    Yeah, i have been watching this with great interest. I think a lot of enthusiasts and PC gamers are in the process of deciding what their plan for VR this year is going to be.

    Interesting times, indeed.

    • ZenInsight

      My plans are for next year. Without 10 games I really want I am not buying. 10 full games. Not glorified tech demos

      • Chris Braeuer

        They are glorified for a reason. Getting the vive was the best thing ever. Absolute worth every penny. And I had to get a 1600 bucks gaming machine too!

  • Mike

    On the other hand, when using the terms “oculus rift”, “htc vive”, “vive”, “oculus”, “rift”, there’s an interesting result. “Oculus” and “rift” are still the highest searched for, after taking into account corrections for unrelated topics boosting certain terms (Spanish usage of the word “vive”, the MMO Rift that released in 2011, etc.). Search volume usage ranking apparently looks like this (after corrections): 1) Oculus 2) Rift 3) Vive 4) HTC Vive 5) Oculus Rift

    • benz145

      How are you correcting for those non-VR uses of the terms?

      • Mike

        For the “vive” term I roughly extrapolated the natural continual slope of the Spanish language use of the world “vive” and subtracted that from the total “vive” usage to get the actual VR “vive” term usage. For the “rift” term I roughly extrapolated the natural declining slope of MMO popularity and applied that to the MMO Rift “rift” term usage, including the Rift MMO free2play expansion released in 2013. And then I subtracted that from the VR “rift” term usage. For the “oculus” term there was only a flop horror movie three years ago. There was pretty much nothing there to correct for.

        • benz145

          Interesting approach. Sticking to longer phrases (“Oculus Rift” and “HTC Vive”) should eliminate those factors up front, though there could of course be a discrepancy between the two groups using the full name or the partial name depending upon marketing and the like.

    • kaosstar

      The word “rift” is a fairly common word in the English language, however. It’s usage extends to everyday parlance, far beyond a VR headset and an MMO.

      • Mike

        The graph weighting takes that into account. If you look at the usage of “rift” before the MMO Rift you can see the graph assigns “rift” word usage near zero.

  • LoL, 6 months later and PSVR has more then double the number of hits of VIVE and Rift combined. I predicted VR’s biggest push would be in consoles, and man, I NAILED that prediction.

    The VR market is looking very good as well, with PSVR units being sold out all of the place during the Christmas season. Regardless of it’s so-so performance, PSVR’s excellent adoption rates will push all other VR sales for the next year. My friend, for instance, liked the PSVR so much, he bought a VIVE. This tread will continue as people everywhere, hooked on PSVR, look for other forms of VR to slate their growing virtual hunger.

    Ultimately, what will determine whether this interest blossoms or burns out will be due entirely to the release of AAA Games for the PSVR. At the moment, those are few and far in between. A good Battlefield or Call of Duty clone with multiplayer support could help out VR tremendously, as might Dating Simulators.

    Fear of VR being labeled as a “Tool for Porn” has made HMD makers hesitant to allow any dating sims on them in Western markets. The only few I’ve heard of are Japanese. Even very modest, PG dating sims could help out VR sales massively.

    Another big market, barely tapped at all, is social. A simple game like Werewolves Within (on PSVR) demonstrates the MASSIVE value VR has in a social context. This is the market Facebook wants, but to get it, they need a massive VR-PC market, which will only happen if the PSVR gets people’s attention. Like it or not, they might be better off launching their social VR network on Sony, before trickling it down back to Oculus and the PC.