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 surpassed 1 million for the first time.

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. That is to say: even if the percent of headsets in use on Steam was static month after month, the actual number of headsets in use on Steam would still fluctuate in proportion to Steam’s changing user population.

Road to VR maintains a detailed log of VR data from the Steam Survey dating back to April 2016, the month that the first consumer VR headsets launched. With help from our friends at VR/AR intelligence firm Greenlight Insights, we’ve 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.

Data gap from seven months of data misreported by Valve

After correcting for Steam’s changing population, we find that May 2019 was the first month on record to see more than 1 million monthly-connected headsets on the platform. Year over year, monthly-connected headsets on Steam are up 80%.

In our prior analysis at the end of January 2019, we found that the growth of monthly-connected headsets on Steam showed an adoption trend which closely fit an exponential curve, with an R² value of 0.986. The latest data shows an even better fit against an exponential curve, with an R² value of 0.991, starting from the month that the first consumer headsets hit the market back in 2016.

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 Oculus’ platform (or any insight at all on Sony’s PlayStation VR).

As for the close exponential fit—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 2.15 million monthly-connected headsets by May 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.

– – — – –

Looking at the latest Steam Survey data in detail for May 2019, we can see that the percent of the Steam population with connected headsets rose to 0.99% (+0.07%). That figure recently surpassed Steam’s Linux population for the first time; 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 3.26% of Steam users.

Data courtesy Valve

Breaking down the share of headsets on Steam: the Oculus Rift had a better month than the rest, rising to 46.03% (+0.41%) of the monthly-connected headsets in May. This is likely due to the launch of the Rift S at the end of May, though it’s not a particularly large change in share, so it’s difficult to know whether or not the Rift S is being lumped into the ‘Oculus Rift’ data, or not being counted at all (the older Rift DK1 and DK2 dev kits are each reportedly separately). We’ve reached out to Valve for comment. Update: Valve has confirmed to Road to VR that Rift S is not accounted for in the May data.

HTC’s Vive and Vive Pro dropped collectively to 42.21% (-0.38%). The Windows Mixed Reality gang finally saw the end of a year long streak of continuous growth, though only just, landing at 10.99% (-0.08%) of Steam headset share in May.

Even with the shifting share of headsets, all of these major players saw their highest total count of monthly-connected headsets on Steam in May, so good news for all.

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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."
  • Jarilo

    Look at that trend line graph climb. Sweet.

  • Adrian Meredith

    say what you like about the number but you can’t sniff at 80% Year on Year growth. And this is before major new headsets. If John carmack can figure out native wifi streaming to the quest I think the market will explode

    • The Bard

      Samsung will fix this problem very soon :)

      • Hivemind9000

        Sure, as long as they don’t try building a folding headset…

        • Who’s this?

          Hah, that would be pretty funny but also damn cool.

    • ImakeUpManyNames

      alvr is insanely close to being as good as native.
      for someone like me whos tried lots f wireless solutions like TPCast and vive wireless, ALVR works literally just as good and is free without physical installing or buying anything./

      • Mark

        But what PC spec would someone need to make ALVR work well with the Quest?

        • WowVR

          VR capable. The PC still does all the work.

      • WowVR

        HUGE thank you for this comment! Just installed ALVR and even DolphinVR works perfectly on the Quest through it…mind blown! Why don’t more people know about this?

      • Nads

        the issue is the drop in resolution. You drop graphics quality quite a bit, especially for larger bigger games like Skyrim, its not the same quality when you stream it. Thats the reason why it hasn’t caught on big time yet, TPCast or the Vive wireless kit would still be a much better solution for wireless.

  • Skippy76

    Valve just needs to release Half Life 3 in VR and they will double that amount in just one month!

    • oompah

      what is Half life
      is it some nuclear stuff?

      • Les Vega

        A pre-halo fps serries that is grossly overrated by it’s aged manchild fans.

        • Jarilo

          I bet you thought you were being funny and that part actually is kind of funny.

        • Jistuce

          I’d call it “a first-person shooter hailed as revolutionary and inventive for doing what other games did before”. But that’s just me.

        • Clownworld14

          halo is grossly overrated by the simple kids.

      • Trenix

        Honestly it was nothing special. Counterstrike, Dota 2, Team fortress, and Left 4 Dead were far more successful titles. I don’t understand the Half life hype, it’s probably because people actually want a VR game with a story? I’m hoping for Left 4 Dead 3, Team Fortress 3, or just a completely different game. There are some rumors that Garry’s Mod 2 is in development and will be for VR, with a completely different name. Seems like a good idea because we need a game which will create many different mini-games. Just look at the success of Pavlov with TTT maps.

    • dtvutube

      Well Half Life Alyx is a thing now lol.

  • oompah

    It means 1 million headaches
    I get so severe headache playing with VR headset.
    Any solution other than
    to bang my head on a wall?

    • MrSockman

      Well, I have 3 ideas:
      1. You’ve played with wrong IPD setting (most probably)
      2. You need higher refresh rate than the one you’ve tried
      3. (Eventually) You have some vision defect and having screen so close to your eyes with it unfixed leads to a headache

      Hope you’ll get through it, because VR is really great! :)

      • gothicvillas

        Oompah is a local VR hater :) dont waste your time

        • Tharny

          And he obviously belives everybody share his experience.

          Why is he even on a VR news outlet?

          • Jarilo

            He’s fighting the good fight, one man on a mission to save flat screen gaming from the oncoming onslaught from the evil empire of VR.

    • Jarilo

      Try wearing the headset correctly.

    • Trenix

      1) Don’t consume caffeine before wearing a headset.
      2) Make sure the headset is secured correctly.
      3) If you have lower refresh rate than 90hz, buy a headset that supports 90hz. If your headset is 90hz, but you’re still having issues, try buying a headset that supports an even higher refresh rates, like the valve index.
      4) If your headset isn’t comfortable, buy headset that is.

    • Clownworld14

      My cousin unfortunately suffers the same, so you’re just an unlucky statistic. Most of us are really enjoying it though.

  • MosBen

    I’d guess that the increase for Rift was related to sales as places got rid of CV1 stock.

  • Yay!

  • Jistuce

    Every time you guys post the Steam survey stats, I ask the same question:

    Who is the guy still using Oculus DK1, and why has no one bought him an upgrade so they can take that yellow “0.0%” off the chart?

  • Augusto

    But “VR is just a gimmick”, right?