In a new report from IDC (International Data Corporation), the market research firm predicts a near 10 fold increase in the shipments of augmented and virtual reality headsets in the next 4 years, bolstered by a plethora of new devices and “expanding array of content for both consumer and enterprise users.”

Lets be honest, the last few years have seen some pretty wild speculation from industry analysts whilst the excitement and hype surrounding the most recent renaissance in immersive technology has ridden high. A new report from IDC published last week however, while still erring on the side of ‘very optimistic’ in our opinion, may actually provide some attainable target aspirations for the fledgling VR industry.

“2016 marked an important step for the AR and VR headset market with product finally arriving in end users’ hands and on their heads,” noted Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC’s Augmented and Virtual Reality team. “While there was clear demand coming primarily from technology enthusiasts, what became readily apparent were the use cases for enterprise users across multiple verticals and for consumers with gaming and content consumption. This sets the stage for the multiple aspects of the market that device makers, platforms and content providers, and developers will be addressing in the months and years to come.”

2016 saw the arrival of 3 major consumer virtual reality headsets, the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. Despite Sony being pleasantly surprised by its official PSVR sales figures – with the nearly 1 million units sold since its October 2016 launch – it’s difficult to get a handle on market penetration for VR hardware to date. Many analysts issued somewhat gloomy reports on VR’s performance in 2016, despite that fact that the ‘disappointments’ cited were often due to some ludicrous and overexcited prediction from the analyst industry to date.

What VR Headset Makers (not analysts) Have Actually Said About Sales Expectations

Samsung confirmed at CES in January that its Oculus engineered Samsung Gear VR headset had passed an install base figure of 5 Million and more recently Google affirmed that it had shipped over 10 Million Cardboard viewers. But it’s reasonable to say that the high cost of VR headsets and the gaming hardware needed to support them, is keeping high-end VR accessibility low right now. However, 2017 will see a glut of new devices hit the market from new vendors, increasing choice for consumers and introducing competition. At the same time, despite the general focus on VR’s entertainment prospects, IDC sees the technology’s wider appeal to other verticals as key to its growth predictions.

“Although AR remains as the minority portion of the market in terms of shipments, these headsets are expected to bring in significantly more revenue over the course of the forecast as the value of AR headsets grows from $209 million in 2016 to $48.7 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, VR headsets grow from $2.1 billion in 2016 to $18.6 billion in 2021,” states IDC’s report.

As we’ve said, these numbers still feel a touch on the optimistic side, and it’s difficult to see how fast augmented reality – long seen as the logical target evolution from VR for immersive technology – will develop once big AR players like Magic Leap (and hopefully Apple) finally hit the market (or, you know, show anything at all).

It should also be pointed out that, as is the case for every market researcher, predictions can easily be wide of the mark. IDC themselves predicted in 2011 that by 2015, Microsoft’s then new (and now dead) Windows Phone platform would overtake Apple’s IOS as in the mobile phone market.

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  • davem

    Last paragraph sums up what I first thought. I really want VR growth like that, but it seems a bit optimistic, for high quality headsets anyway. Could we have a list of things these guys have ever got right before we give them column space.

  • Nairobi

    Didn’t they already predict a lof ot crap about VR early 2016 that it was gonna dominate everything with millions of Vive and Oculus units sold by 2017? Are these predictions gonna be educated or not?

    • indi01

      Yeah that’s true but to be fair they didn’t even have any data to base them on. Now they do, I hope they can make slightly better guesses.

      • Nairobi

        Why in the living hell would they EVER make conjectures without data?

        • indi01

          I don’t know…but they have done enough damage already with those ridiculous predictions.

          Probably after Zuckerberg showed up they must have said “OMG. This must be HUUUUGE”. If they had listened to the people working in the field they would have known this was going to be a slow process instead.

        • OgreTactics

          You can make conjectures “without datas”. In fact “datas” are absolutely irrelevant when you’re in the job of prospective: you already know the company, it’s heads and the overall governance strategy the old, and the sealing datas simply is the final product their release. Then it’s a matter of pondering these facts into the context as widely as possible, through different matrices of readings like market dynamics, consumer behavior etc…

          So these report are absolute crap indeed.

  • Yes, and I’ve still a report about Google Glasses that forecast fantastic sales for these years. I don’t trust these reports anymore…

  • NooYawker

    I would imagine AR would be useful than VR and would hold a bigger share than what they’re predicting. But then again, they haven’t released a consumer AR device yet.

  • OgreTactics

    I don’t understand what is the thinking behind these token prediction cabinets. Do they keep on doing these obviously false analytics because they have to keep on making money with the same technics, or do they really believe that we’re in the 80s and that “Hey, people are stupid, so self-prophecising marketing method of telling people it will sell so people have the impression that it did and will therefor will buy-it even though it’s crap because that’s how rational purchase decision-making works…” still is efficient?

    And then when the clearly catastrophic 2017 numbers are announced because there is absolutely no driving incentives beyond the initial launch of already obsolete headsets, what are they going to predict in 2018? That by magic it will sell 150 millions by half 2022?