Sony is the first of the big three tethered VR headset makers to drop official PSVR sales figures: 915,000 PlayStation VR headsets sold as of February 19. And it likely could have been more, save for the fact that the device has been surprisingly hard to find in stock, the company says.
Speaking with the New York Times recently, Andrew House, President of Sony Computer Entertainment, confirmed the PSVR sales data. As the first company to offer such information, it means that Sony is not only happy with the figure, but likely confident that they’re well ahead of the competing Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. As the New York Times cites as a point of reference, the original iPhone launched in 2007 saw about 1.4 million units sold in its first three months.
And PSVR might even have matched those numbers, had the company placed a bigger bet when it decided how many to manufacture in its initial launch.
“It’s the classic case in any organization—the guys who are on the front end in sales are getting very excited, very hyped up,” House told the Times. “You have to temper that with other voices inside the company, myself among them, saying let’s just be a little bit careful.”
That veteran skepticism seems to have led to a limited supply that couldn’t meet demand. In the months following PlayStation VR’s October launch, it’s been difficult to find the device in stock at major retailers in the US and elsewhere.
“You literally have people lining up outside stores when they know stock is being replenished,” House said of consumers hoping to get their hands on the headset in Japan.
The company recently committed to bolstering its stockpile of the headset, including adding a new PSVR bundle to the lineup. By April, PlayStation VR should be much easier to find in stores, House said, and in the Fall the headset will begin shipping in Latin America.
Despite not meeting overly enthusiastic analyst predictions, 915,000 of any high-end tethered VR headset is a major point of validation for the young VR industry, and likely gives the headset a sizeable head start in install base over competitors, which may grow developer interest for the platform.
As the headset is even more expensive than the console that powers it, the revenue brought in by those sales is worth considering: roughly $36 million, assuming a $450 price point (halfway between the base headset package and the bundle package with required PlayStation Camera). That’s a big deal, and you can bet that, beyond the VR industry, the ears of Sony’s competitors in the console space—Microsoft and Nintendo—will perk up at the news.
Though competitors Oculus and HTC are believed to have sold fewer headsets despite being on the market for several months longer, Sony had a number of major advantages out of the gate. For one, the PlayStation 4 hardware that powers the PSVR not only has an existing install base of more than 50 million, but new users could pick that hardware up starting around $260. The headset itself, even bundled with the required PlayStation Camera and optional Move controllers, costs $500, compared to the $800 price point of both the Rift (including Touch) and Vive, and both of those competing headsets require significantly more costly PC hardware than the PS4.
And while PSVR doesn’t provide an experience that’s as graphically rich or immersive as those other headsets, Sony’s sales figures would suggest that the headset’s specs and capabilities are ‘good enough’ for the price, despite not being best-in-class [our review].
The careful observers among you may have noted something odd about Sony’s announcement: why not wait for the 1 million unit mark? We wondered the same thing.
The timing of this week’s GDC 2017—an event that’s been an important gathering for the VR industry—makes it seem highly strategic. You can bet there will be some important announcements from Sony’s top competitors in this space, and the company may have wanted to put the spotlight on PSVR ahead of news that’s on the way from competitors.
We’ll find out if that hunch is right soon enough. Stay tuned to Road to VR this week for the most important VR news out of GDC 2017.