The launch of Half-Life: Alyx saw nearly 1 million additional monthly-connected headsets over the prior month, a leap that nearly tripled the previous largest monthly gain.

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, including the use of VR headsets.

The latest Steam Survey data is the first time we’re seeing the impact of Half-Life: Alyx in the numbers; although the game launched in late March, Valve advised that most survey data is collected early in each month, so the impact of the game’s launch wasn’t truly revealed until now. And it’s a doozy.

The data represents the number of headsets connected to Steam over a given month, so we call the resulting figure ‘monthly-connected headsets’ for clarity; it’s the closest official figure there is to “active VR users” on Steam, though it can’t account for headsets that were connected in a given month, but not used.

The launch of Half-Life: Alyx brought the single largest leap ever in monthly-connected headsets on Steam.

Monthly-connected VR Headsets on Steam

The latest figures from April show that 1.91% of Steam users had a VR headset connected to their PC over the course of the month. This is far and away the record high so far, and the largest single-month leap, nearly three times the prior record held by December–January during the 2019 holiday season.

To put this into perspective, Steam users with connected VR headsets are now about twice as common as those using Linux, and about half as common as those using MacOS.

While Valve’s data is a useful way see which headsets are most popular on Steam, the trend of monthly-connected headsets has always been obfuscated because the data is given exclusively as percentages relative to Steam’s population—which itself is an unstated and constantly fluctuating figure.

To demystify the data Road to VR maintains a model, based on the historical survey data, along with official data points directly from Valve and Steam, which aims to correct for Steam’s changing population to estimate the actual count—not the percent—of headsets being used on Steam.

From the model we estimate that April added nearly 950,000 monthly-connected VR headsets over the month prior, for a total of some 2.7 million headsets. That’s both the greatest total number and the largest single leap in the history of the data.

To be clear, the 950,000 headset gain is not necessarily new headsets. The breakdown between new headsets and those which were owned but not previously plugged in during the prior month is not known.

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Of course it was expected that Half-Life Alyx would lead to a jump in the numbers, and this is huge jump. The big question is: how many of these extra monthly-connected headsets will stay around after the leap? We expect the next data point will dip compared to April, but will be interested to see what portion of the jump sticks longer term.

Share of VR Headsets on Steam

As for the share of individual headsets on Steam, the biggest winner in April was Oculus Quest. Though it’s a standalone headset, with the right cable it can optionally tether to a capable PC to work just like a PC VR headset. Clearly Half-Life: Alyx was a major reason for many Quest owners to get their headset up and running on Steam, leading Quest to leap to 6.03% (+3.14%) of the share of headsets on Steam.

Curiously, Oculus’ latest PC headset, Rift S, fell to 21.95% (−5.08%) which is a sizeable change which suggests that a large share of Rift S users were already using SteamVR leaving less room for relative growth compared to older headsets like the original Rift at 16.60% (+1.04%) and WMR at 8.54% (+0.26%)—which would be more likely to be pulled out of the closet and dusted off for Half-Life: Alyx. Alternatively, the loss could also be related to Valve’s recent changes to the way the Survey collects data on VR headsets.

Speaking of Valve—the company’s Index headset hit 11.94% (+1.00%) in April, making Valve the third-largest vendor of headsets on Steam less than a year after the launch of the headset.

Howver, Oculus and HTC still dominate the share of headsets on Steam, with Valve and WMR further away in 3rd and 4th place.

As ever, it’s worth noting that the Steam Survey only gives us a glimpse of the overall VR market, as it only counts headsets connected to Steam. That means it doesn’t count some portion of Rift users which may not use Steam at all, nor other major headsets like PlayStation VR on PS4 and Quest standalone.

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  • David

    It would be interesting to know what systems using a Quest connected via Virtual Desktop show up as, which is how I connected. My guess is that it pretends to be a Rift S, which would boost those numbers somewhat.

    • Mike Hines

      quest is on the list

      • David

        Yeah, it would show up via Quest Link, but I’m not convinced that would be the case for Virtual Desktop connections.

        • jimmy

          mine show as a quest

        • Mike Hines

          Its a HARDWARE survey. lol

          • Jistuce

            But Virtual Desktop is not a hardware connection. It simulates a VR headset to Steam, then passes the data back and forth between the Quest and the PC OUTSIDE of SteamVR. Depending on how it behaves, PC-side software could see one of several things.

            Off my head, I can imagine it presenting as
            1. A unique “Virtual Desktop” headset. This could be fairly mapped to the Quest share.
            2. A Rift or Rift S. This will help keep games from getting upset at unexpected hardware, but can also introduce compatibility issues since neither headset actually matches the capabilities of the Quest.
            3. A Quest. This is what you would expect to happen, but it is also boring.

          • gothicvillas

            SteamVR sees your headset connected.. dont you see Quest logo with 2 controllers in your steamvr box?

          • Mike Hines

            You are wildly incorrect

    • benz145

      As far as I understand, Valve’s recent changes should correctly account for Quest’s used through wireless means.

  • ArtemiyNeko

    Interesting to see that Index numbers for the past few months mostly reflect the stock situation, despite its price the demand appears to be higher than you’d think would be for a $1k headset (and I guess this is why OG Vive usage isn’t on that sharp of a decline, Index is the obvious upgrade path and there’s no need to buy new base stations, but it’s more or less unavailable).

    • Raunhofer

      On that same note, Oculus headsets are feeling the same burden. Everything is out of stock all the time.

      It’s interesting how we have struggled to get consumers want a VR HMD, but now when they do, manufacturing can’t handle it. It seems that Oculus/Valve aren’t even ready for mass adoption.

      • Rogue Transfer

        This Xmas period will be very interesting to see. By that time, manufacturing should have returned sufficiently to supply a pent-up demand for VR over this year to-date.

        We should see a large increase of users desiring VR that have saved for it meantime too.

        • DooMMasteR

          I doubt Valve will be able to provide enough merchandise by then, they are already sold out for 10-12 weeks and they have just opened to the EU and NA, no AUstralia/NZ and Asia yet.

      • DooMMasteR

        Oculus users however should be aware, that their access to OpenVR is pretty much unsure in the future, Oculus is not supporting the platform and all software API support comes from Valve.
        Oculus could, at any moment. kill OpenVR for their headsets if they feel so.

        • Raunhofer

          And the same goes to OpenVR users and their access to ReVive. Both blocking scenarios seem extremely unlikely though as both sides seem relatively friendly right now and the blocks would hurt both.

          It’s not a surprise that Valve’s own standard is supported by Valve, not Oculus. OpenVR isn’t actually open.

          • DooMMasteR

            the thing is, it is on Facebook to keep both working, but their action is purely passive.
            At any time Oculus could block OpenVR users from accessing any Oculus made content (DRM is already blocking) and also prevent OpenVR from working with any of their headsets.
            They are basically the Apple of VR at the moment.

            Shit works because people are good, not because Oculus is.

          • Raunhofer

            Facebook has no access to OpenVR. It can’t be up to Facebook to maintain it. It’s Valve’s product and it’s up to Valve. OpenVR isn’t open.

            Also with the ReVive, Facebook doesn’t develop it or have anything to say how it’s maintained. They can block the loophole, but have decided not to. They actually even once re-opened the hole as they accidentally closed it during other fixes.

            They also won’t block the OpenVR as we all know how that would end up being. Facebook has knowingly enabled 3rd party content on their platform (this part is actually described in the Oculus book).

            Facebook also allows SideQuest to work, which brings unofficial content into their actually closed Quest ecosystem.

            If things had gone differently, we could have had a native Vive support in Oculus Store.

            Judge Oculus by their actions, not by your own assumptions.

  • Very interesting statistics, but I bet these are not all new users…1M of new users when the game has sold 1M+ copies is non realistic. But even if it is just old users using VR again, it is anyway an amazing news for the whole ecosystem! We need more engagement

    • Charles

      Seems much more likely that the main reason for the jump in VR usage is the coronavirus quarantine – people stuck at home with a ton of free time. Correlation does not equal causation.

      • Sven Viking

        I also wonder whether the recent changes to the way the Steam Hardware Survey detects VR headsets were fully implemented in last month’s results. For one thing, last month’s results were altered multiple times in the days following their release, so at least something strange was going on there. Plausible that could have given an additional boost to this month’s numbers.

        I still expect HL: Alyx has brought in a large number of new users (unfortunately limited by VR hardware shortages) as well as brought back a lot of inactive users, though.

      • Jistuce

        It could be an overlap. Wildly-hyped video game sequel that requires the VR headset to be dusted off at the same time that people are locked in and have a lot more time to play video games.

        • Charles

          That’s true, and I didn’t mean to imply that it wasn’t partially that.

      • Sven Viking

        P.S. since VR users are only represented as a percentage of active Steam users in the Hardware Survey, also keep in mind any Coronavirus-related increase in active Steam users will act to cancel out any Coronavirus-related increase in VR users.

        • Charles

          I think people would be particularly drawn to VR when stuck at home, since it gives the impression of being somewhere else and of socializing with other people in other places (in some apps).

  • missconfused

    Just imagine if valve made this game for keyboard and mouse, the game would have been more famous, but this article couldn’t have been a bigger lie, or what i’d like to call it, BULLSHIT.

    • Cry more, the game wouldn’t have been the same if it was made for keyboard and mouse. Stop being biased. You CANNOT understand how VR gameplay feels until you try it for yourself. Also, lies? These stats are from Steam’s monthly hardware survey. Did you even read the article?

      • great way to bring people over to vr. reading these comments when someone don’t agree isn’t a welcoming thing. if i was thinking of jumping into vr i wouldn’t after reading 80% of the comments toward those who simply wants more options.

        • Torsten Balle Koefoed

          Did you even read missconfused’s comment before posting your own? Would you consider inviting someone into your house after they threw rocks through your windows for no reason at all?

          • i think that’s not on the same level when someone doesn’t enjoy something u do there ways of dismissing that person without coming of as if u don’t like it my way u a fool and just go back to 2d gaming. it drives me crazy to see so many willing to shut down others maybe open up to the debate. hmmm maybe not debate but open discussion on what form of play is enjoyable. i use to only play vr game seated but everythime o would talk about it people act like asking for things that would help make that more comfortable people treated me like i wasn’t playing vr right. got sick of very little games not treating people that play seated seriously . So i gave away my Rift.

    • Torsten Balle Koefoed

      Congratulations “missconfused”, since you’ve revealed yourself to be a true SGB™ (Spoiled Gamer Brat) you’ve qualified yourself for this free (!) course designed especially for you: How To Get Out Of Mom’s Basement And Discover That The World Doesn’t Revolve Around Your Every Wish

      Some of the points we will be covering:
      – How to handle the disappointment, when a game isn’t designed specifically for you.
      – Various strategies for expressing your opinion online in a civilised and true gentlemanly fashion
      – Combat training in how to ask yourself the perennial question: “Does the world really need to know this?”
      – How to still be happy after the shocking revelation that the world doesn’t revolve around you

      • drastic00

        Don’t encourage them lol

    • Hobbes

      Your name is accurate.

    • kontis

      Half-Life Alyx was created BECAUSE of VR, not the other way around.

      If not for VR you would have nothing. Single player games make pennies for Valve. This is why they didn’t make any story game in almost a decade. The income they have from their GaaS products like CSGO and Dota 2 and from Steam fees is astronomical compared to what they made with all half-lifes, portal etc.

      • Sheo

        Come on, it was obvious like… 5 years ago that the next HL game will be in VR.

        • 0x

          Yep. I was literally saying this 5 years ago. Valve are quiet, but not that quiet. I think a lot of people believe what they want to believe, though, especially when there is any room for interpretation.

    • kuhpunkt

      lol

    • jimmy

      gtfo flat gamer

    • Rosko

      Oh boo hoo, maybe you should get counseling to get over it.

    • Jistuce

      How is it a lie? Are you arguing that Half-Life Alyx is not actually responsible for the sudden dramatic spike in VR users? Or that there was no spike in VR users?
      I am genuinely curious how this argument works.

  • Bamux

    Half-Life: Alyx has seen a temporary increase in Steam VR players, but the total number of users in April 2020 was at a similar level as in December 2019.
    https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Bamux/Steam_VR_Statistics/master/images/monthly_vrusage.png

    • benz145

      Hey Bamux thanks for sharing these stats. Are you the creator of the Steam VR Statistics project? If you’re on twitter can you hit me up @benz145? I’d love to chat.

      • Bamux

        Hey benz, yes I am the creator of this project. I am a hobby programmer who wanted to learn web scraping and matplotlib/seaborn with this project. I do not have a Twitter account, but if you want to contact me you can do so at bamux01@gmail.com

  • Cragheart

    VR industry should try to do everything it can to make this trend continue uninterrupted. We don’t want stagnation.

    • jimmy

      if the growth stay at this rate we will have 9 millions users by the end of the year

      • It will happen if more high-quality content like HLA is created. Too much of what’s available in VR is just Blah or engaging but way too short. Valve delivered – other content creators need to do the same.

        • Sven Viking

          Requires a lot of money, though.

          Come to think of it, Valve has a slight advantage there in being able to release on Steam without losing 30% of gross sales.

          • Yep, money is an issue. But a 30% break helps a lot. Hopefully, enough to lead to a HLA 2 and other content in the future.

          • mirak

            Valve doesn’t even have to care about that.
            They can afford to can so many projects and idea.

          • Sven Viking

            True (although some Valve people have said that money has been used as a reason not to go ahead with projects in the past — considering that HL:A even exists, it’s possible some things have changed since). I was contrasting Valve’s position with that of the “other content creators” Emory Craig was talking about however. Just meaning that not everyone has those advantages.

      • Cragheart

        It all depends on the hardware: GPUs have to get exponentially better and VR things (display resolution, refresh rate, field of view, tracking) as well. Last 3 years were exceptionally slow in everything except CPUs. The last good high-end GPU was the 1080 Ti and the last good mid-range GPU was the RX 480.

        • Sven Viking

          High-quality eye-tracking and foveated rendering could potentially change all of that, though there hasn’t recently been a lot to indicate it’s likely to become a standard feature any time too soon unfortunately.

        • benz145

          We all want better hardware, but I think for the enthusiast gaming segment, the true bottleneck is content. It wasn’t the release of a new headset that caused the biggest leap in VR usage on Steam so far, it was the release of a game.

          Half-Life: Alyx (and any great new games) add a lot of value to the original Vive or Rift released in 2016.

          • Cragheart

            Software follows hardware, not the other way around. There needs to be hardware for software to exist. Mid-range PCs and things like the Rift S allow for HL Alyx to be used.

          • Cragheart

            The fact that mid-range hardware is only 6/12, 16GB DDR4 and 7 teraflops is very worrying. It should be better already – at least twice that.

  • wheeler

    Yep, sounds like a lot of people dusted off their old headsets just to play HLA. I don’t know about you guys, but most people I know that own VR headsets rarely ever use them after a year or so. I only see a certain kind of gamer coming back regularly. I’m guessing you could even see the numbers go back down again over the next few months.

    • jimmy

      make no sense, vr headsets are getting sold out within minutes of being in stocks for months these are probably over 97% of the new users

      • Mike Hines

        no games..

        • Jistuce

          Yes games.

          • Mike Hines

            You must be new

  • Joe Fecarotta

    Maybe now the fools over at Forbes et al can stop saying VR is dead again. I think we’ve gone beyond the moss-growing-on-a-rock evolutionary stage and now moved to a full fledged plant. :)

  • mirak

    So as far as I understand HTC doesn’t sell headset anymore at all.
    Cosmos as ridiculous shares, and Vive Pro also, and the Vive OG isn’t sold anymore.

  • Frogacuda

    It’s difficult to say how many of these are new and how many of them are people who had not used VR in some time reconnecting their headsets. Supply alone must mean it is probably a lot of the latter, which makes me worry how many of these users will continue to be active after finishing Alyx.

    But it makes you realize there’s this kind of Invisible userbase for VR that can be activated by the right content. Knowing that will hopefully encourage more developers to aim higher.

    It also means that HLA almost definitely sold over a million copies in its first month, which is absolutely incredible for a VR game.

    • benz145

      But it makes you realize there’s this kind of Invisible userbase for VR that can be activated by the right content. Knowing that will hopefully encourage more developers to aim higher.

      Definitely, this is a big takeaway. These people want to use their headsets, they’re just waiting for great content.

  • DjArcas

    Good lord what. Correlation != Causation.

    • alboradasa

      Oh wow, are you seriously trying to imply that the release of Alyx and the huge jump in headset sales are a complete coincidence?

      • DjArcas

        Did you forget everyone has to stay home cuz of that big ol’ plague? O.o

  • Romulo de Castro

    Half Life Alyx is the sum of all good thing created for VR. Everything works so well, the graphics look sharper and more detailed that every other game. It is a 10 for me.