While Quest 2 has certainly soaked up much of the attention as it quickly became the most used headset on Steam, Valve’s expensive Index headset has proven its longevity, now taking second place among the most used headsets on Steam.

For a headset which is now more than two years old and still priced at $1,000, it’s impressive to see Index take second place as the most used headset with 17.5% of VR users on Steam using it, according to the latest data from Valve. It got there by growing 1.51% among the share of headsets used in September, while the discontinued Oculus Rift S fell to third place with 17.21% (−0.88%) share.

Interestingly, Index previously reached its all-time high of 17.63% share back in October 2020, but that put it in third place at the time, behind Rift S at 24.64% and the original Vive at 19.17%. Index nearly took the second place spot in January 2020, but that very month Quest 2 made its debut in the data and took the second place spot for itself.

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But Index has persisted, and has watched as both the original Vive and Rift S have fallen away, finally earning it the second place spot among the most used headsets on the platform. It’s not entirely surprising to see a headset outlast the Rift S (which has since been discontinued) nor the original Vive (which launched way back in 2016), but given that Index has never been discounted from its steep $1,000 price point—and that it’s more than two years old—makes it pretty impressive for it to have snatched the second place spot in 2021. Despite supply issues early on, the headset seems to have seen strong demand ever since launch, consistently ranking among the 10 highest grossing products on Steam.

Beyond Index’s new ranking, the latest data from Valve gives us an update on VR’s performance on the platform overall.

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.

Overall the number of users using VR headsets on Steam grew from 1.74% to 1.8%. However, the small growth follows a trend of bouncy figures in the last few months which appear to show a slowing of VR headset adoption that started in May.

It’s tough to say precisely what’s causing the slowdown, though a common refrain among PC VR users is that the platform hasn’t seen many major VR game releases since Half-Life: Alyx back in March of 2020. Indeed, Quest and Quest 2 have been commanding significant attention among more experienced VR developers recently.

Share of VR Headsets on Steam

While Index grew the most in the last month and took the second place spot, Quest 2 still has a major lead and, now that it’s back on sale after a month-long pause on sales, has grown to 33.19% (+1.04%) of all VR headsets in use on Steam.

Rift S, the original Quest, Windows Mixed Reality, and the original Vive lost the most share over the last month, with Rift S at 17.21% (–0.88%), Quest at 5.02% (–0.68%) Vive at 9.70% (–0.31%), and Windows Mixed Reality at 5.48% (–0.31%).

As for the share among headset vendors, although Quest 2 grew in the last month, Oculus overall dropped to 60.71% (–0.42%) due to losses from Rift S and the original Quest. Despite being the most recent vendor to release a new PC VR headset (Vive Pro 2), HTC’s share continues its long decline, now down to 13.89% (–0.56%).

The only major vendor that grew its share in the last month is actually Valve which, despite offering only a single headset, is the third largest vendor of VR headsets used on Steam.

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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."
  • Tabp

    Attention everyone who said nobody’s going to buy a $1000 headset: rofl

    HTC and Samsung need to get their acts together. The low-midrange markets are wide open for things with the positioning of the original vive and odyssey+, provided they don’t have glaring deficiencies that make them practically unusuable.

    • Jistuce

      Absolutely true.There needs to be a gateway drug for this stuff.
      I mean, a gateway that isn’t Quest 2. We don’t want you in facebook’s garden, we want you to live free as a bird! Possibly literally, this IS VR.

      • Ad

        I would like it if Ben did more coverage of the Lynx, seems like it would help. At least interviews and talking to developers and sidequest about its potential.

    • Anonymous

      Samesung is obviously out already. Their mains businesses like phones and foundry are basically burning right now and have no resources to invest novel techs.

      HTC management is just plain stupid now since Cosmos. They don’t care about consumer VR.

      • Bob

        It’s not that they don’t care about consumer VR. They don’t know how to consumer vr.

        • Anonymous

          Correct… since parting ways with Valve they seemed like totally lagging behind in terms of R&D.
          Don’t know what didn’t go well between them, but if I were HTC I would have begged Valve to keep the partnership as they obviously don’t understand what VR needs.

          • Cless

            Ask them what VR R&D is, and they will ask you back if that its some sort of new breakfast or something.

      • wheeler

        HTC doesn’t have the resources to subsidize headsets and thus they can’t compete in consumer VR. They’ve told us this explicitly–they can’t compete with artificially low price points

        • Arno van Wingerde

          Maybe they should sell their business to somebody who can… and I do not completely buy into that artificially low price point. I fully believe FB is not making money on the HW, but HW+content together seems to be a moneymaker, even without grabbing the user data as well.

    • wheeler

      It makes me wonder if Valve will increase the price further with the Index successor. They say they want to push the high end–they will need to differentiate themselves. The investments made in ImagineOptix (to have them construct a factory for mass producing LC lenses) is thus interesting, though of course nothing is confirmed.

      On the other hand, it may balance out because they are clearly pushing for an inside out tracking baseline that is still compatible with lighthouse. So they can knock ~$300 off of the cost and allocate that to other features, and people that still want basestations (for e.g. FBT) can purchase them separately.

      • Ad

        I think that would be a good idea, especially if it’s modular. A quest sort of does what the index does at a fraction of the cost. They need to do things it simply cannot be an analogue for.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Who says all those people bought the full package? A lot of people already had the lighthouse/controllers and only bought the headset. I only bought the index controllers for my Vive Pro.

  • VRFriend

    Index is good, but it weights like a brick with 820g. Also, G2 has better screen and resolution and no need for sticking things to your walls. I am happy Index is successful.

    • kebo

      It weighs like a brick… yeah, but not on your head. I can play for hours with my Index without getting unconfortable and many people report the same.

      It all comes down to weight distribution where the Index shines. From now on headsets will only get lighter and Valves next standalone heaset will likely have hardware on the back of the head (counterweight) making it even more confortable.

      • VRFriend

        I hope they make it even better in the next version.

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    • wheeler

      The G2 has a nice screen but the lenses really suck compared to the Index IMO. Bad pupil swim and poor edge to edge clarity. However, fewer internal reflections. I wish the G2 would have used the Index’s lenses (assuming they could even be made compatible), then it would at least be decent for simulators

  • That slow growth of PCVR at the end of the graph is concerning… it may be a glitch in the stats (like the new Chinese users), but if it keeps being like that for the next months, it means there is a problem

    • Tabp

      This month had a decrease in Chinese language use (-5.53%) and looking through the other stats, they appear consistent with the effects of removing pc cafe duplicates. It’s likely we’re seeing a decrease in how often headsets are plugged in due to lack of new software and this being real life season. The +0.06% overall gain would surely have been a loss without previous month shenanigans moving the starting point. The big test will be the size of the holiday season bump.

  • User_Name_24601

    Interesting news and data, but I wish that better chart methodologies had been used to display this information. 3D pie charts can skew viewers’ perception of data. Flat is better for accuracy. The same goes for the sand graph chart. The way data is layered makes it difficult to see how each headset is actually performing, and what’s the scale of the graph? It isn’t indicated. A line graph would be better for this purpose.

    • Ad

      I think the histogram is the best way to look at things over time.

  • MosBen

    I think that the lack of new/available hardware is a factor as well. I sold my CV1 about a year ago. That was also about the time that I built my new PC with the hope of using it for VR. But in order to save some money I decided to stick with my GTX 1070 and buy a new graphics card about a year later, which is, well now. And after that I would buy a new top shelf HMD. But I can’t buy a graphics card now for anything close to MSRP, and there haven’t been any new HMDs released recently which surpass the 2 year old Index across the board. So I’m a relatively early VR adopter who keeps up with VR news and would like to be doing more stuff with VR, particularly PCVR, but just can’t because of supply chain issues.

  • Colin

    A lot of people like myself upgraded to the Index from the Vive which doesn’t cost the $1000 quoted as we already have the base stations and controllers. It cost me £459.00 (around $550.00) to buy an Index.

    • Ad

      How do you still use Vive wands?

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    It is interesting that the main growth spurts came from two events, first the release of HL:A, then the release of the Quest 2. But while a significant number of news users that were drawn in by HL:A continued to use VR, the huge increase from Dec-Jan due to new Quest 2 users is pretty much matched by the similarly huge drop from May-Jun.

    One interpretation is that the Quest 2 significantly lowered the entry barrier, so more people could try VR for cheap, but it doesn’t provide the right content to keep them interested for a long time, and many drop out after a few months. On the other hand HL:A motivated people to invest a lot of money just to play it, substantially raised the quality bar, demonstrating what kind of great experience AAA VR can provide, and people stick around in the hope for more.

    This “quality over quantity” might be valid only for gaming, where the grade of the experience and aspects like immersion are highly valued, and thus reflected in Steam VR usage. Even if VR gaming does benefit more from better software titles than from the availability of cheaper hardware, the same isn’t necessarily true for all types of activity in VR. E.g. in the social VR apps Facebook is trying to push it is more important that a larger part of your social circle can participate thanks to a low price than the activity itself providing the best possible experience. So the directions Valve and Facebook take with their future HMDs could be very different.

    • Ad

      Content stopped coming out after Alyx and Steam has terrible discoverability. Content outside the top 20 just disappears.

  • jangovin

    Now imagine if Valve had actually managed to sort out their manufacturing, and offer the headset in all countries. 2 years on and there is still only handful of places with official support. If you live outside of those and something happens to any component, good luck getting it fixed.

  • Sven Viking

    Incredible given the price and varying availability difficulties.

    • shadow9d9

      Considering that all of its competition is completely discontinued and replaced, it shouldn’t be surprising to you at all.

      • Sven Viking

        Good point though as seen on the Steam survey its main PCVR competition is actually Quest 2, and there’s still Reverb G2.

  • Trip

    This is great news for VR enthusiasts. It shows there is a market for high end consumer hardware, and that the Oculus/Facebook decision to go for affordable convenient VR hardware is not the only path to success. I absolutely LOVED my Index, but sold it because I needed more resolution for DCS World. I’ve been wishing for an Index 2 ever since. The resolution is the only real shortcoming, and that affects flight sim pilots more than anyone.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      The question isn’t really if there is a market for high end consumer hardware, that was never in doubt. The question is if that market is large enough to sustain hardware and software developers. And if we define “success” as “at least no longer losing money after five years in the market”, we still cannot say if either Valve or Facebook have found a way to success.

      It is pretty safe to assume Facebook lost more money thanks to paying USD 2bn for Oculus to begin with (or about USD 400 for each Quest 2 sold so far) and spending billions each year in their Reality Lab, with no way they could have made that back with hardware and software sales. According to Steamspy Valve has sold 2-5mn copies of HL:A, so they may have made back the development costs from that. They most certainly lost/lose money on the Index, because all the development cost has to be split between a small number of devices, the hardware is expensive to produce, and they had to handle a lot of RMAs. If the RoadToVR estimate of about 2.6mn Steam VR users is correct, the current survey counted 455.000 Index, so the total number of Index sold should be well under a million.

      The one thing that might have helped Valve to make a profit is the 30% they took from pretty much every PCVR software sale since 2013, partly thanks to Oculus failing to establish their app store for the Rift. This works for Valve, so there might be no economic pressure to drop consumer VR like there was for HTC. Unfortunately the same isn’t true for all the VR developers that get the other 70% of the sales, because the number of units a single game sells are low. Steamspy estimates for other VR bestsellers are rather low compared to pancake games, e.g. Boneworks 500K-1M (only sold on Steam), Moss 200K-500K on Steam (also available on PSVR and Quest). Smaller titles fare worse.

      So it is sort of questionable that anybody has actually found a path to success. Consumer VR still basically only exists due to massive subsidies from a few large companies as part of a bet on the future of the metaverse.

      • shadow9d9

        Valve doesn’t care about VR or the future of VR. Facebook is spending money to have a major foothold in all aspects of VR for the future. Completely different purposes.

    • shadow9d9

      The other shortcoming being that no one is developing for pcvr anywhere.

  • Mk.82

    Here is free advice for Facebook how to dominate next few years; remove Facebook account requirement and support only Oculus account requirement without Facebook like promised.

    You are welcome.

    • shadow9d9

      They already have complete dominance now, with developers selling 10x more copies on quest and selling 4 million quest 2s in a year. I think they will continue their dominance quite fine without your expert advice.

  • xyzs

    That’s sad to see people still relying on this now old and overpriced hardware. That shows how strong is the lack of innovation in the domain.
    It’s such a disappointment to see the VR hardware we have in almost 2022. Still LCD screens and still resolutions around 1500px per eye. Not to mention games that are 95 percent indie GameCube-like short experiences.