Last month we pointed out a sharp drop in the number of users with VR headsets on Steam according to the latest data from Valve. There wasn’t a clear cut explanation as to why. This months data shows the numbers bouncing back closer to where they were before, but came short of a full recovery.

Last month we noted that the portion of users with VR headsets on Steam had dropped sharply from 2.31% to 1.86%, according to the data provided by Valve in the monthly Steam Survey. This was an anomaly compared to the occasional up-and-downs seen in the data previously.

June data

The latest data from the company shows the drop may not have been as severe as it appeared, with the portion of users with VR headsets on Steam bouncing back to 2.07%. Not quite as high as before, but much closer to the bumpy ‘noise’ that we’ve seen in the data previously.

July data

Monthly-Connected VR Headsets on Steam

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 data shared in the survey 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 ‘monthly active VR users’ on Steam, with the caveat that it only tells us how many VR headsets were connected, not how many were actually used.

While Valve’s data is a useful way see which headsets are most popular on Steam, the trend of monthly-connected headsets is 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 and estimate the actual count—not the percent—of headsets being used on Steam.

As far as the actual number of headsets, our estimates had May’s 2.31% at just under 3 million monthly-connected headsets, June’s 1.86% at 2.47 million, and now July’s 2.07% at just under 2.8 million. So while the drop from May to June appeared to lose about 516,000 monthly-connected headsets, the growth from June to July appears to add back 320,000.

If we take July’s data to be more accurate than June, that ‘sharp drop’ looks closer to just 200,000 headsets rather than the 516,000 that appeared initially. That’s not insignificant, but it’s much closer to the normal up-and-down noise that we’ve seen in the data over the years, which has ultimately revealed a healthy upward trend over the long run.

We still don’t have a clear cut explanation for the drop in June’s numbers, and Valve has opted not to respond to our multiple requests for comment. One lingering possibility was a large surge in Chinese (+6.18%) and Korean (+2.16%) players—places arguably less likely to be using VR headsets on Steam—combined with an overall loss in English players (−4.32%), which are arguably more likely to be using a VR headset on Steam. Facebook, whose headsets account for more than 60% of all used on Steam, does not sell its headsets in China.

These fluctuations, combined with a downswing of the data’s usual noise (and perhaps some actual reduction in the value of headsets on Steam in June), are a plausible explanation for the sharp drop, but not conclusive.

Share of VR Headsets on Steam

As for the share of individual headsets on Steam, Quest 2 continues its consistent growth, now at 32.56% (+1.49%) of all VR headsets on Steam. Other Facebook headsets (Rift S, Rift, and original Quest) saw small gains and losses which ultimately just about cancelled each other out.

Having been released way back in 2016, the original HTC Vive is still going surprisingly strong, but has continued a slow and steady loss of share, now at 10.37% (−0.87%). Valve Index lost a bit, now at 16.23% (−0.45%), but remains the third-most used headset after Rift S at 17.79% (−0.69%). Rift S has seen a slow but steady downward trend and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Index overtake it as the second most used headset in the next month or two.

HTC’s Vive Pro 2 has only been available for two months now and has reached just 0.34% (+0.26%) of the share of VR headsets on Steam. Even this small, initial traction is enough to make it more popular than HTC’s Vive Cosmos Elite, which dropped to 0.08% (−0.06%).

Looking at vendors overall, Quest 2 continues to drive Facebook’s control of headsets on Steam. Last month was the first time the company’s headsets accounted for more than 60% of all headsets on the platform, and this month its up to 61.27% (+1.09%)

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  • Of course!
    Summer’s winding-down and people are coming back inside now.

    • Arno van Wingerde

      But this is the percentage of VR users on steam: do you consider it more likely that people set up their monitors in the garden than VR sets?

  • Ricardo Mendes

    Steam does a very bad job tracking the available vr headset. I got the steam dialog asking if I wanted to participate in the July survey and when I was reviewing what was going to be sent it stated I had no vr headset when I actually had my oculus quest 2 connected. I have no idea how they are gathering the information but clearly it is flawed.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Valve may not be able to count to three, but SteamVR most definitively can count up to one, otherwise your VR HMD would never be detected and you couldn’t use it.

      • Ricardo Mendes

        Then why did it report I hadn’t a VR HMD when I actually have one?

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          I don’t know. I have no idea what exactly the survey counts. Is it sufficient that the HMD was connected once during the month? At least 10% of the time? In the week before they asked the question? Or was this a technical glitch?

          Surveys are inherently difficult, if the values measured aren’t stable. Counting the people owning and using umbrellas will give very different results during rain, so you have to come up with a better way then just observing pedestrians. Steam e.g. shows “Total Disk Space”, but how do you count this if people occasionally connect external drives? Do you only count what is permanently available, the maximum value you see during the month or just what you see the moment you ask people for participation in the survey?

          And if they agree to participate, do you show them the amount of all currently connected drives, so the values seem correct, even if in reality you count the min or max value? These are typical questions for any survey. And Steam has reported VR usage for years, they were aware of the fact that HMDs aren’t always connected from day one. It makes almost no sense to count monthly HMD usage only if the headset is connected while the survey window pops up.

          So I cannot answer why the survey reported you didn’t have a VR HMD. It could be a momentary glitch. It could be that you hadn’t crossed the minimal threshold for that month to count as connected. It could be that the data they show is a weird projection of some kind. And it could be that Valve is simply incompetent, never thought about these problem and all the data collected over the years is worthless. But I will give them the benefit of the doubt, esp. since we don’t know anything about their survey methodology, only the reports window and the final results. In general Valve seems to be rather technical competent. Besides the counting to three thing.

  • T0X1N

    What about the number of users that play Quest 2 connected via Virtual Desktop, does Valve compensate for those users or is the hardware survey just detecting headsets hard-wired at the time of the survey?

    • Ricardo Mendes

      My quest 2 was connected via the official air link beta and it was not detected in the survey (it shows what is going to be sent)

      • T0X1N

        That’s what I am suspecting. So, apparently the PCVR numbers probably would be higher then what is currently reported, unless your report was just bugged, but I am doubting that. I believe it is not reporting headsets connected via Air Link or Virtual Desktop, even though, I am not sure if that is possible with the current reporting. So these numbers really don’t mean much in terms of PCVR. It just means Wired VR headsets had a dip.

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        • Christian Schildwaechter

          That seems unlikely. We have seen a constant drop in share for Oculus Rift and Quest 1 that almost matches the increase in Quest 2, and this before and after AirlLink was released. The total Oculus share has risen rather slowly for the last six month. So it seems that a) many Quest 2 are upgrades for existing Oculus VR users and b) the Steam survey detects wireless connected Quest 2 just as well as normal tethered HMDs or Quest connected by Link.

          This strongly suggests that the Steam survey collects data over the whole month, and HMD is counted as long as it was connected at least once, as ben145 noted in another comment. Otherwise we would have seen a sharp drop after AirLink was released, as the majority of users will have waited for the free solution instead of paying for Virtual Desktop.

          The data is a little bit hard to compare, as most of the other values collected are a for hardware that cannot be disconnected. You may see the infos the survey collected while your Quest is off, but your CPU, RAM and GPU will definitely be there, since you need them to see the results. This could lead to the impression that the results are incomplete.

          • JakeDunnegan

            Continuing the above conversation – when you all are saying that Airlink isn’t being detected – are you not using Steam VR app to play your games? I know I am, and the Steam VR app definitely knows the difference whether I’m connected or not. (The pop-up lights up after I’ve connected, just as it would if I were wired. And when it’s not lit-up, I can’t play any Steam games.)

            It’s also how I get the games to play in actual VR, instead of just a window’d VR.

            On the Virtual Desktop version, however, that is an open question for sure. I have the app, but I haven’t really used it that way.

            (Though, I’m really glad people DID! It kind of forced Facebook to create the airlink stuff, that while not perfect, is a really cool addition to the VR environment as a whole. Streaming games locally…seems the most obvious thing in the world for VR now, but no one seems to have thought of it before. ;) )

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    • benz145

      Once upon a time, only a headset connected at the moment the survey was sent would be detected. Since about the time that Alyx launched, any headset that interfaces with SteamVR any time in the prior month should be detected and reported, though some people say their headsets aren’t correctly detected via the survey. It’s possible that the survey preview (what users can see before they send the info to Valve) wasn’t updated to match the change in detection and so it still just reports if a headset is currently connected (but behind the scenes it may still be correctly saying that a headset was connected at some point in the last month.

  • wheeler

    If the numbers jump back to normal and western languages return to their approximate former percentages (they are part way there) next month, I think that’ll be pretty good evidence that this is the culprit.

    And not that “PCVR is dying” or whatever some hope to be the case.

    • benz145

      Yeah anyone who took one month’s drop in a growing trend to say that PC VR is suddenly dying doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

  • That’s a very good news!

  • Schadows

    Frankly, I wonder if these numbers are even hardly accurate. I mean, Although my headset is always connected to my PC, it is only powered up when I’m using it so it is not detected at all.
    When I saw the survey was going to sent that I have no VR headset, I tried going back to the initial survey prompt, powering the headset up, and accept the survey, but it seems the deed was done because my headset was not detected either.
    And how, it’s been months since I hadn’t been prompt for a hardware survey.

  • Nobody’s mentioning the other possibility; lack of compelling new games to play. There wasn’t much during this period to get me excited, so I would think that at least part of the dip is due to that?