The PC VR population has been growing ever so steadily over the last four years. Meanwhile, the MacOS population has shrunk and been overtaken by VR.

If you were just looking at the percent of the Steam population with monthly-connected VR headsets, you’d probably conclude that VR on the platform has shrunk slightly over the last four years. Here’s a look at the trend of the percent of the VR population on Steam:

But the total population of Steam itself has been growing at a steady clip.

To eliminate the growth of the Steam population as variable, Road to VR maintains a model, based on the historical Steam 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.

Here’s a look at the slow overall growth in the count of monthly-connected headsets on Steam, after accounting for Steam’s overall population growth.

Looking back at percentages of the Steam population, while the percent of monthly-connected headsets on Steam has shrunk slowly over the last four years, the percent of MacOS users on Steam has shrunk much faster, representing not just a reduction in the percent, but also the count, of Mac players on Steam:

Despite nearly 20,000 Mac compatible games on Steam, the decline of Mac users may be primarily driven by Apple’s shift to its M-series processors. Although Steam runs on M-series Macs, it uses a built-in emulation layer in the operating system to do so, which means the Steam client doesn’t benefit from any advantages that are unique to applications built natively for M-series processors.

Many Mac-compatible games played through Steam also must use the same emulation layer to function, which can have a performance impact. That’s problematic for the bulk of consumer MacOS computers, which don’t have discrete GPUs like Windows gaming laptops or gaming desktops.

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However, Apple has been making efforts to undo the perception that ‘Macs aren’t for gaming’. Last year the company revealed the Game Porting Toolkit; part of a set of tools designed to help make it easier for developers to make their Windows games compatible and performant on M-series Macs. So perhaps we’ll see this trend reverse.

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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."
  • I dont like windows

    I have an explanation for this, I migrated to MacOS a few years ago, and we have problems being able to play most games, so Quest 2 has become a very cool alternative so we don’t have to buy a Windows PC. A lot of people who have Mac bought Quest 2, at least from the ones I met.

  • ViRGiN

    I find it at least very dishonest to not even mention that steam used to support Mac steamvr. This has ended in 2020, quote:

    “SteamVR has ended macOS support so our team can focus on Windows and Linux.”

    There has been no real focus on Linux anyway.

    Also the propaganda of pcvr growth i find particularly disgusting. Steam surveys have been historically not accurate. Just check vrlfg and notice how the playerbase isn’t actually growing, it’s been absolutely stale. 8000 players right now, on a Friday night, is no different than 5 years ago.

    • Joseph

      I agree, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. “Wow oranges must be less popular than apples because 7% more people bought apples this month than oranges!”.

    • Dragon Marble

      That’s a good point. Why do we keep looking at these surveys, estimates and even models when vrlfg tells you exactly how many SteamVR users there are at any given time?

      • Brian Elliott Tate

        Vrlfg, unfortunately, doesn’t show you that. It only tells you what a few of the VR-only game player counts there are. There’s no way to know how many VRChat players are VR vs. non VR, so by default, it doesn’t show any VRChat players (one of the largest PCVR apps / games).

        We also have thousands of daily players playing VR mods and non of that shows either, nor any of the games that have VR modes.

        • ViRGiN

          If you have to use missing vrchat as an example to prove that PCVR is growing, you are actually achieving the opposite.

          Thousands of daily players playing VR mods lmao.
          UEVR cult is super strong.

          • ViRGiN

            I, ViRGiN, am the biggest cult of them all…! Oops, typo.

          • Cl

            “I don’t like VrChat and there’s no easy way for me to discredit UEVR so they don’t count.”

            Hey show me those quest standalone numbers. Oh yea, they don’t release those.

          • ViRGiN

            You can check Tabor website and substract steam users from it.

            Oh yeah pcvr is on the rise cause people with mental issues are exclusively using headset for vrchat, great achievement

        • Dragon Marble

          VR-only games is the VR market on PC.

          Mods should be excluded because they generate zero revenue for VR developers.

          Hybrid is a viable business strategy. However, other than flight/driving sims, Hybrids have been abandoned by flat studios on PC (Hellblade being the latest example).

    • Ardra Diva

      Gaming on Linux is for those who hate Microsoft so much they’ve been petitioning Alvin Bragg to bring them up on phoney charges.

  • xyzs

    Now that VR is done beating the kid in the wheelchair, time to beat the big bully…

    • John G

      Exactly

  • flynnstigator

    I was one of the people crazy enough to try using a Mac for PCVR with a 2015 MacBook Pro paired with an eGPU. It worked surprisingly well, but I still wouldn’t recommend eGPU’s, just too much jank and getting it all to work took about 20 frustrating hours. I ended up just getting a cheap PC during the GPU craze when people were selling no-GPU prebuilts for next-to-nothing, and had much better performance and fewer headaches.

    If a person is not into sims or other PCVR-only experiences, a Quest 3 with QGO is honestly close enough to PCVR not to bother building a PC. I agree with the other comment that most Mac people probably just play their VR games on-device.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    M1 was introduced in 2020-11, and the steepest drop in the OS adaption graph happened before that. The real culprit is 2019 MacOS Catalina dropping support for 32bit apps, which killed a huge part of the Mac back catalogue on Steam. Much of Mac gaming is casual with low performance, often 2D games that barely changed in over a decade, never got updated, but still sold/got played a lot.

    Steam now shows an (often incorrect) disclaimer (“Notice: This product is not compatible with macOS 10.15 Catalina or above.”) on many Mac game pages. They don’t actually test the binary for 64bit support, instead developer have to set a flag, and many didn’t. Looking for Mac games on Steam can now be rather frustrating, as one cannot filter for 64bit support, nor is it shown in the search results. So you open a lot of pages, only to find a game not working on your Mac that Valve will still gladly sell you if you miss the warning.

    One solution is to drop Steam and buy games on the very convenient Mac app store instead. Apple won’t let you buy software not running on your current MacOS, and apps from devs that don’t keep them compatible with supported versions will be unlisted. Apple silicon with its much faster GPUs than Intel iGPUs actually improved Mac gaming a lot. Demanding games like RE8 in the past ignored Mac, but now get released for M1 or better. Mac gaming is indeed growing, only Steam sort of dropped the bucket, losing customers to Apple.

    • Ondrej

      Steam didn’t really drop the ball, Apple did.

      For over more than a decade Valve was putting various efforts into making Mac OS a first class citizen for Steam games, but they were often undermined by Apple.

      Valve finally gave up when Apple introduced new certification requirement forcing every game developer on Steam to re-certify every game they want to sell for Mac users after EVERY SINGLE UPDATE – no matter how tiny the patch is. Apple took away Valve’s ability to truly independently sell the games on Mac and Mac OS stopped being truly “Free market” software platform (like Windows still is).

      Guess what? It’s not an issue when you sell on Apple’s app store.

      Your last paragraph shows Apple succeeded in fooling almost everyone. The whole reasons is they want that 30% TAX that Valve was “stealing” from them. They want to ensure no one buys any software without giving Apple money.

      • flynnstigator

        Agreed. Apple’s control freak tendencies will keep Mac gaming from truly succeeding. I thought maybe they were turning over a new leaf when the M1 came out and offered a solid 1080p60 experience in an affordable, lightweight laptop or mini-PC (MacBook Air and Mac Mini). I thought they were going to try to appeal to developers and bring higher quality games into the fold, not just on Mac but on the whole iDevice lineup since the M-series chips are just beefed up A-series with extra IO and a Mac game should be able to run on any Apple Silicon device.

        Instead they continued to alienate developers with their controlling and capricious attitude, put up lots of unnecessary barriers, made no effort to pursue a coherent strategy across Mac and iOS, and showed that they just wanted to take Valve’s 30% in the tiny Mac market and continue to rake in the cash on crappy little mobile games.

        The AVP’s lack of support for Steam Link, Virtual Desktop, or controllers is just a continuation of that. They would rather lose the deep-pocketed gamer market than let Valve or even a small player like Guy Godin be in the driver’s seat.

        • ViRGiN

          Valve doesn’t support steam link on Apple, not the other way around.

          And you know what? It’s good to know that Apple exists as competitor. Why everyone everywhere till the end of time must publish through steam? It’s 20 years old, time to move on.

          This wouldn’t even be an article if valve was a real company. Instead they are just leeches of the success of being there first 20 years ago, when everyone actually hated them for always online games.

          Serving hundreds of millions of customers, with the total workforce of about 350 people? They are the worst corporation in the world, there is no net benefit to them existing.

          • flynnstigator

            I never said Apple shouldn’t exist. I am typing this reply from a MacBook Air. Their Mac gaming strategy leaves a lot to be desired (which is what I was criticizing above), but they often show the way on how to integrate an ecosystem, and it’s no accident that other companies tend to change their strategies after Apple introduces a device in a new category. Hopefully Meta and others will be influenced toward a more coherent strategy.

      • ViRGiN

        Bla bla bla. Verified source?

        Obviously valve tried to do absolute minimum for a platform they don’t even understand. Maybe they should hire extra people you know, serving hundreds of millions customers by 350 is way too small.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        Apple made Mac 3rd party software distribution much harder with required code signing, certifications, locking down the file system and making kernel extensions impossible. Most in the name of making it harder to mess up the system. This made MacOS safer for the average user, no longer able to accidentally screw things up or install malware, but also made things that are trivial elsewhere very complicated. And they definitely make questionable re-certification demands specifically for games that are very obviously only about money. But these issues apply to all developers.

        The usability issue where Valve “dropped the ball” is 100% a Steam issue. Apple cutting 32bit support (with lots of pros and cons) created the basic problem, but excluding incompatible games from searches is on Steam. All it would take is a “MacOS (64bit)” checkbox that also filters for the flag that Valve makes developers set themselves. It’s not the first time the Steam interface turns out to be lacking, and for almost five years now, this particular issue affected the users of still supported MacOS versions, which by now is pretty much everyone.

  • Octogod

    Fun insights!

    Sadly, 2.4m to 2.6m in four years is nearly flat. It highlights how most Quest users aren’t leveraging Steam content, which shows up often in PCVR revenue conversations.

    The biggest surprise here is Linux doubling it’s numbers in that same period.

    • deepsubs

      You can thank the Steam Deck for that.

  • Ondrej

    However, Apple has been making efforts to undo the perception that ‘Macs aren’t for gaming’

    To be more precise, what Apple is actually doing, is and effort to create a perception that “Apple’s App Store on Mac is good enough for non-mobile gaming”.

    Their notarization “friction” targeting Epic and Valve show this is not about just making the OS better for gaming.

    And their recent even more crazy friction for alternative stores on iOS in EU show they know exactly what they are doing.

    What a shame this dark company has such a great hardware.

  • Ondrej

    You are confused.

    VRChat addicts aren’t PCVR’s only relevant user base.

    VRChat addicts are ANY VR’s only relevant user base.

    Carmack even slipped how Meta irritated is internally by that fact also on the Quest.

    Everyone else is a tiny niche of believers (a statistical error for a big corporation) and people who were using it enthusiastically for a month or so and now it gathers dust – no matter if it’s PSVR, Apple, Meta or PC.

    • ViRGiN

      PCVR vrchat is literally mobile phone grade game, if it was optimized properly.

      There is absolutely nothing impressive in “pcvr exclusive” worlds, it’s all dogshiet worshipped by a bunch of clowns, weebs, graylords, lgbtqwerty

      And they all love the exclusivity of it.

      • Well, they let users add content. About 99% of 3D modelers these days don’t know how to optimize their works. Add in “Fun with Shaders”, and soon you’re hyper-powerful Chad gaming machine is dragged down to a crawl with “Glitter Graphics”.

        As an OLD 3D Modeler, I recall optimizing for 500 polygon models with 256 scale texture maps. These DARNED KIDS like to start around 100k polys, and try to use their models directly out of ZBrush. I got half a mind to get my walker and go out and give them the what-for.

        • Ardra Diva

          99%? Hyperbole much?

  • Mhahahahaha! That is SO FUNNY. There’s more people playing PCVR then *ALL* of the people together that use those worthless Apple computers. You know Apple likes to boost their “Computer Sales” stats by trying to include Tablets as Personal Computers.

    And this is during a time when more and more VR users are using native Quest apps, forgoing the more powerful computer for the more convenient native experience. PCVR is hovering at an all time low for VR usage, and even those unimpressive numbers beats Apple.

    I’ve heard an ENDLESS amount of Apple BS lately, mostly from Joe Rogan since he’s ALL on board these days. He’s deep in the Kool-Aid with that cult. It’s like listening to one long Apple ad. But this article makes my day!

    I’ll spare you the long list of criminals, monopolies, legal bullying, toxic waste, customer abuse, employee abuse, outright theft, price gouging, outright lies, and market manipulation, but it’s sufficient to say there is no more evil, vile, and despicable tech company then Apple. But then again, look at that logo. What famous apple had a bite missing? They flat out tell you who they are.

  • I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s dead…. but… how many AAA game experiences can you get to pull you towards the more complex PCVR, as opposed to the easy-to-access native Quest VR apps? It’s just so damned simple! You can slide into VR in seconds and the native apps seem to run so well.

    I hope to see another Half Life Alyx soon. I haven’t used SteamVR for much in months. But I was just in the native Quest game Light Brigade last night.

  • Ardra Diva

    I can’t say this surprises me. Macs =/= Gaming. Not a perception, just a fact.