According to the just-released December figures from Steam’s Hardware & Software Survey, the Oculus Rift has for the first time claimed the ‘Most Popular’ designation on the platform. Meanwhile, Windows VR is starting to make a mark in marketshare of VR headsets in use on Steam.

Steam is the de facto content platform for the HTC Vive, though it technically supports the Rift too; plenty of Rifters use both the official Oculus Home platform and Steam to play content which may not be available on the opposing platform.

Each month, Valve runs a survey among Steam users to determine some baseline statistics about what kind of hardware and software is used by the user 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.

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The latest results for the month of December show the Vive losing 2.2%, bringing its share of VR headsets in use on Steam to 47.3%. Meanwhile, the Rift picked up a tiny 0.1% increase, putting it at 46.1% share, and neck and neck with the Vive for control of the plurality of the platform.

Data courtesy Valve

Interestingly, while the Vive still holds the plurality, the latest survey lists the Oculus Rift as Steam’s ‘Most Popular’ VR headset—used by 0.17% of the Steam population compared to the Vive’s 0.16%. The edge is razor thin, and may well be within a margin of error, however this is the first time we’ve seen the Rift hold the designation over the Vive since the headsets launched back in 2016.

Data courtesy Valve

Given the data provided by the survey, it isn’t entirely clear how the ‘Most Popular’ headset is calculated, so we can’t be sure exactly why the Rift claimed the designation despite holding a smaller headset marketshare on Steam. We’ve reached out to Valve for clarity.

While still far behind the incumbents, the Windows VR headsets are starting to make their mark. In November, Windows VR headsets gained the ability to play SteamVR content. According to the survey, Windows VR headsets in use on Steam more than doubled month over month, climbing from 2% in November to 4.4% in December. Especially once the ‘Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR’ module leaves early access and becomes better publicized, it’s expected that this segment will see continued growth.

The Rift DK2 development kit also gave up 0.25% share compared to the month prior, making way for greater share of other headsets. The DK2, which launched in 2014, still holds 2.3% of the total share of VR headsets in use on Steam. Combined, the consumer Rift and the Rift DK2 hold 48.4% of the Steam VR headset share.

Exactly how many Rift users use Steam among the total population of Rift users is unknown, making it largely futile to extrapolate the data in an effort to determine headset market share across all platforms. Many analyst estimates put the Vive ahead of the Rift in total sales, though in the consumer space, Oculus’ aggressive price cutting has allowed the headset to gain significant ground over the course of the last few months. Oculus also recently introduced an ‘Oculus for Business’ package, attempting to capture some of the commercial market where Vive appears to have a strong hold.

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Though it seems to have been a strong holiday season for VR headset sales—with reduced prices and bundles aplenty—most of the gift giving falls toward the end of December; with some folks likely busy with family and friends through New Year’s, we won’t likely see the true impact of the holiday season on Steam’s figures until January’s data is published.

The latest figures could mean several things beyond just more headsets in the hands of new users: a portion of the gains and losses may have been made up not only by new headsets entering the market, but could have come from existing owners using their headsets more or less than in months prior (potentially driven by anticipated game launches, or lack thereof).

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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."
  • JesperL

    Well deserved Rift – and this comes from a Vive owner!
    When products are almost equal, then it comes down to price and content, and Rift takes the lead on both. – However, everyone need to get on board, that it should not be a competition among the VR devices – It should be all VR standing (and developing) together vs. non VR. Develop all titles for all applicable VR devices, and it will benefit the VR market in general. – Happy Newyear!

    • There’s also the control and comfort factor, which are important to VR. The Touch controllers were late but they dramatically leapfrog the Vive controllers, and it’s taking HTC/Valve too long to catch up. Vive’s room-scale is the best, but there’s no getting around the fact that people having the space for a permanent room-scale set-up is *exceedingly* rare.

      No doubt for the holidays though that price was the #1 factor.

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    • mirak

      By cutting the price that much to be able to sell as much as the Vive it would have dramatically bad that Oculus wouldn’t have sold more !

  • Justos

    I wish we had numbers outside of steam. Though Rift probably has a sizeable lead on Vive at this point seeing as its dominant on the competitors platform.

    • Suitch

      So many people I meet in Oculus games say they don’t play Steam games because they haven’t found a need. It is very definitive at this point that Oculus has an insane lead this generation and I really hope Valve buckles down on upending the high-end VR market.

      • mirak

        You don’t need to play steam games, you just need to have it installed and run it from time to time.
        So I let you do the conclusion.

        • Suitch

          What’s your conclusion? They have to have the rift plugged in while doing the hardware survey or they had to have played steam games with it. Right?

          • mirak

            You don’t need to have played steam games, Steam survey just scans the hardware, so if an Oculus was there at least once in the month, and steam was running at this time, then the Rift is counted in the stats.

            It’s unlikely a significant amount of people who own a VR headset don’t have Steam at least for regular gaming.

          • Suitch

            Mostly, you’re right if that is all that is needed for the stat– however in my small sample of four people, one doesn’t use Steam, so it may be more than we’d think.

          • mirak

            I can imagine people who didn’t played video games before, because they prefer outdoor and physical activities, and VR brings a bit of that dimension to games in my opinion.
            So from this angle I can see people just using the device with the software proposed right away.

            But I would say unfortunely that doesn’t seem to be a lot of people, because this would be good for VR.

    • Foreign Devil

      Yeah I don’t buy VR games on Steam anymore. Most everything is on Oculus store and what isn’t on Oculus store usually isn’t that great anyways. I only have time to play the best games and experiences.

      • Edward Morgan

        I’m the exact opposite. I only buy on the Oculus store if it isn’t available on Steam. Mostly because I don’t want to be locked in to a specific brand of headset when I upgrade. I want VR games, not Rift games.

        This is not without its own share of problems, admittedly.

        • Suitch

          The Oculus versions are usually given for free by developers if they are on both platforms and you bought it on Steam first. I like supporting Oculus though since they are pumping so much money into game developers.

          I got a key for Eleven on the Oculus store after having it for Steam and it runs SO much better on Oculus Home it is insane. It is actually ahead an update.

      • Pablo C

        I usually just buy the cheapest (Steam or Oculus), but, most Indie developers are on Steam though, and sometimes they have very interesting ideas. And, while is kind of awkward to run Steam over Oculus in order to play, Steam is still a better general gaming platform (although Oculus has copied a lot, and very well, in Dash).

        • Suitch

          Pablo, why do you think Steam is a better platform out of curiosity? I do not wntirely disagree, but I was wondering if there are different reasons.

          • Pablo C

            I think it just works better in general, but i.e.: FPS counter, screenshot capture, large discussion section associated to each game, large review section with the possibility to comment back, game library personalization, store page personalization, stand-alone SteamVR. Oculus is getting there, but it´s still behind IMO.

      • mirak

        That will be funny when better headsets than the Rift and not compatible with Oculus Store come out.

        • Pablo C

          There will be a workaround. The Vive has a lot of merits, and I agree they are taking the lead on technical advances. But this is a world domained by money, and Facebook has way more than Valve. I don´t like that, but that´s how the world works: companies that make the most efforts on R+D are not the ones that end domaining the market. What I´m saying is what you probably suspect: Oculus and Sony will win this, whether we like it or not, and thus, they will lead future compatibility. Hence, I don´t think Oculus store games will suffer much on the next gen.

          • mirak

            I think Oculus does r&d but HTC is better at putting products to market because they have way way more experience.
            They can release a new headset like they would release a new phone.
            I don’t think Oculus can do that yet.
            But they have the money to buy startups like for microdisplay screens and probably can buy their way like Apple does.

            As for using the Vive Pro with Revive I am curious if Oculus API would allow the different resolution.


  • impurekind

    Well this is interesting.

  • David Cole

    I own both Oculus Rift with 4 Sensors and a Lenovo Explorer Mixed Reality Headset and have to say Oculus Rift is much better. Touch Controller are best you can get right now and the Oculus Ecosystem is better. Only advantage Mixed Reality Headsets have over Oculus and Vivi is Lower Hardware Requirements and Display is Higher Resolution. That is it. If the cost is the same or if Oculus is $100 More it still the better solution. I picked up the Lenovo Mixed Reality Headset @ Microsoft.Com on December 13th for $199 with Controllers. That was the only reason I bought it and to compare against Oculus. I expect in the next 6 Months it will be supported by the XBox One X which from Hardware Point of View would support it.

  • mirak

    If Oculus Rift appears ahead in most popular it’s because that stat combines dk1 dk2 and cv1, unlike the stay in the graph.

  • Wow, the price discounts have had a great effect on headset’s sale! Congrats Oculus!

  • edge

    This just shows me people are less interested in keeping up with the exhausting politics and posturing that forms the basis of most arguments over VR platforms.