New figures directly from Valve reveal the growth of VR users on Steam in 2021.

Shared by Valve this week, the Steam 2021 Year in Review gives us some fresh official stats about VR usage on the platform.

Valve says “new VR users grew another 11% in 2021,” with “unique [VR] play sessions up 22%.”

These are quite specific figures; we’ve reached out to Valve for clarity on exactly what they mean, but here’s out best understanding in the meantime:

  • ‘new VR users grew 11%’ – the total number of Steam users which used a VR headset for the first time in 2021, compared to the same figure in 2020
  • ‘unique play sessions grew 22%’ – the total number of times SteamVR was launched in 2021, compared to the same figure in 2020

Assuming we’ve got the correct interpretation of the stats, that means that more people are using VR more often on Steam in 2021 than in 2020.

In any given year that might not be particularly impressive; after all, one would hope that VR is growing year to year. However, it’s important to remember that Valve released Half-Life: Alyx in 2020, which brought a huge surge of VR usage on Steam in that year. It was such a success that Valve said the game single-handedly accounted for 39% of revenue growth among VR game sales in 2020. That VR usage on Steam in 2021 still saw growth despite lacking a blockbuster VR game release makes these numbers a bit more impressive.

Valve wasn’t shy about pointing out the success of Quest 2 on Steam—which appears to have driven much of the growth in VR on the platform in 2021—noting that “the newest major hardware release, the Oculus Quest 2, makes up more than a third of VR headsets on Steam,” (though the actual number is much closer to 50%!)

Additional stats revealed by Valve in its 2021 Year in Review post also give us a clearer picture of the actual number of VR headsets used on Steam each month—more on that below.

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.

According to the latest data from Valve, VR headsets on Steam reached 2.12% of the Steam audience in February 2022. And thanks to new data from Valve’s 2021 Year in Review, we’ve been able to refine our model, giving us an estimate of 2.94 million monthly-connected headsets on Steam in February.

Prior to the additional data, we had estimated back in January 2022 that there 3.4 million monthly-connected headsets that month, though with the new data we’re refining that estimate down to 2.93 million (which makes February 2022 the highest month of VR headsets on Steam to date, by a small margin). We also refined some previous estimates in light of the new data and accordingly removed an exponential curve which was included on prior charts (as the R² value has dropped below 0.9).

Ultimately we can see that the holiday 2021 surge that culminated in January 2022 has lasted into February as well, a good sign that new users are sticking around. For now, anyway.

Share of VR Headsets on Steam

Quest 2 continues to gain ground among VR headsets used on Steam, though it slowed down a bit compared to the big stride it took in January. Quest 2 now makes up 47.09% (+1.07%) of monthly-connected VR headsets.

And even though Quest 1 dropped to 3.83% (−0.12%), the gains from Quest 2 mean that both Quest headsets combined now account for just over 50% of the headsets on Steam for the first time.

Another notable move among Oculus headsets in February was Rift S dropping to 12.14% (−0.96%); combined with the loss from Quest 1, this means that share of Meta headsets overall in February dropped ever so slightly to 67.16% (−0.09%).

Meanwhile other headset vendors like HTC and WMR dropped in share to 10.97% (−0.28%) and 4.68% (−0.31%) respectively, while Valve gained slightly, now at 14.43% (+0.07%).

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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."
  • ViRGiN

    You should rather talk about what’s actually played.
    For years, constantly the top of the list are occupied by the very same old games.

    • Alexis von Oberndorff

      at least they can play when ever they want. Oculus is not usable since yesterday for a lot of people. Cannot use air link or virtual desktop. Even the library games are gone. How facebook can do so big mistakes

      • ViRGiN

        Like steam never had any downtime ever, or like any other big tech

        • Alexis von Oberndorff

          never experienced that with steam or any other content platform no. Funny to see how cool you are with oculus situation. Nothing bad to say today?

          • ViRGiN

            I never experienced that with Oculus. What do you want me to say? Don’t act like services like origin, uplay, steam, even gmail, outlook, spotify, netflix, hulu never experience any downtime ever.

            Your only argument here is that when Oculus was down, steam wasn’t? Even Amazon experiences downtime, when Oculus doesn’t.

            This is the nature of online services – which – fun fact – steam was hated for a decade ago, nowadays it’s completly normal, and whenever new game launches, connectivity issues is always expected, and isn’t even surprising to anyone no matter the size of company.

          • Alexis von Oberndorff

            i didn’t ask for facebook account being forced to use my quest 2 or any oculus games. I pay my games to own them. It’s not normal at all that you lost everything cause they make mistakes. If steam had the same problem i could play offline with my games. Not all my games would be erase from my hard drive without my consent.
            And so if i understand well if it doesn’t touch you there are no problem? you selfish little man

          • ViRGiN

            You stupid tiny man, when you but games on steam you don’t own then either. Nothing lasts forever, not Facebook, not steam.. wtf is even your point? Not everyone has all games installed at all times. You can’t play online only games with steam offline. You can’t install single player games when steam is offline. Wtf are you even talking about? About rare events like not being able to use vr for 20h over the duration of a year? You sad little liar, nobody games got wiped out.

          • NL_VR

            lol look at the crybaby

          • Cless

            Gabe Newell talked about him having an “end of life” plan in case something went wrong, but gave no specifics. I wonder what that would look like, since I can’t imagine such a thing happening anywhere in the short/mid term or even long term.

            Not trying to make a point, just wondering.

          • ViRGiN

            Never heard about that. Link?

          • Cless

            I’ll look it up for you, give me a few minutes, it was YEARS ago, like… 2014 or something like that? I don’t remember exactly, but someone asked him, and he said something cryptic like that.

      • kraeuterbutter

        this is true for my quest 2 since the v37 update..
        so i thin, 6 Weeks now
        the update set the date to 2037 in the future… no internet-connection now,
        now games in the library
        i will have to reset it
        (there are tricks vie ADB to reset the date – but didn´t work on my headset)
        not such a big problem for me, because i use the g2 and index for the moment

      • Ragbone

        Thx for the warning, ill make sure not to upgrade.

    • Cl

      Whats that you were saying about pcvr being dead? Now changing it to, but which games are they playing

      • ViRGiN

        Never changed it, and it’s always the same games. And pcvr ownership actually declined by 0.02% compared to last month, so where is that steady, but slow growth?

        • Cl

          The one at the top of the page saying 11% year over year. Does everyone drop all their stocks when it temporarily drops?

          • ViRGiN

            year over year. 11%? that’s hilarious number. nonetheless, after initial honeymoon, the numbers are declining. 0.02% or 2%, it’s decline, no way to fight about it.

            and it’s not really in best interest of website dedicated to vr to say how unwell things really are.

            check “biggest releases of the month X” from the past 6 months, and check how many players they actually have…

    • Ookami

      That’s how the VR industry is going too look for a while. If you can’t swallow that, then go back to flatscreen gaming and wait it out.
      But here’s the key: In order for more companies to invest in making new and exciting VR games, it needs to be less risky to make them. Growth in VR usage is very important for that–even small growth.

      • ViRGiN

        The risk is kind of chicken and egg problem. I strongly believe that a proper Battlefield/COD/GTA in proper VR would do wonders.

        GTA definitive edition is arguably considered a massive failure, but Zuckerberg have not shown a single piece of it, the tech is there, it’s made on UE4, which less than half VR games are being made, he knew how crappy GTA DE is, but strongly believe in proper mechanics.

        If GTA VR on Quest 2 truly disappoints, I’ll be first to knee down. But deep down I believe they are making it to become THE VR symbol. Time will tell.

        • Ookami

          I’m with you there. Growth will lead to more devs making games, but games are the major element required for growth. I honestly have no idea how GTA VR will turn out, but I think if VR is to really make it’s mark, it really needs to move away from all the big games being ports and move towards original and creative built-for-vr content.

        • Cless

          Yeah, that is definitely the big factor, that’s why everytime there is a hyped game about to come out, the total amount of headsets jumps up, and so does daily players. Most of those are permanent, so eventually what you says will become more and more likely. I just wish they made more “VR modes” for regular games. Like I’ve said before, I think Hellblade is a stellar example of this.

          • ViRGiN

            Never played it, but at it’s current 1 player online and peak of 169 from 4 years ago, that game is an absolute disaster.

          • Cless

            Its quite bad to gauge the quality of a game by the peak amount of players, or current players. Specially a game that didn’t come out of the door with that as a feature, but as an addon given to people that already played the games years later.

            Its a singleplayer game you can finish in 1 day with 0 replayability, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great game, and that’s why your method of weighing it is massively flawed. Of course its not going to have a big peak or current player count, not even everyone that has the game has noticed they have the VR version now, I bet you anything.

            You should try it, I think its quite a good example on how regular games should be adapted to VR headsets, on top of quite a good game by itself (if you like the genre).
            Its a AA studio, don’t expect TOO much out of it either though.

  • Blaexe

    11% YOY growth of active PCVR users is not good. At this pace, it would take forever to reach a number of users that could sustain AAA PCVR games on its own.

    For an emerging technology it should be closer to 100%, doubling each year.

    • ViRGiN

      Fanatics will be happy to put the blame primarily on difficulties getting new GPUs on the market.. ignoring millions upon millions with already existing power pc.

      • Jonathan Winters III

        It is one of the important factors though. Not only GPUs, but new gaming PCs also.

    • kool

      Last year was kinda bare for games releases which drives hardware sales. I think that’s because new headsets are expected this year so most will want to release around hardware launches to get that early launch boost in interest.

      • Blaexe

        I don’t know of any PCVR headsets expected this year that will drive adoption. Which ones are you talking about?

        • ViRGiN

          Probably pimax 12k lol

        • kool

          I don’t know of any either, but the psvr2 launch will bring a slew of multiplatform vr tiles. Aaa vr games need pc and ps players to justify the cost, right now any aaa pcvr only game would be dead in the water. It has to support the aging PS4. The psvr2 will allow the aaa vr market to open back up.

          • Blaexe

            I expect the vast majority of PSVR2 AAA games to be funded by Sony and to be exclusive to PSVR2 – at least for a while.

            The PSVR2 market will also be pretty small the first few years.

          • kool

            I expect it to be business as usual. Sure Sony has it’s exclusives but most vr games on psvr2 on pc and quest. Astrobot, wipeout, firewall, far point and re7 are the only ones that come to mind that mattered.

          • Blaexe

            These games won’t be the AAA VR games we’re talking about then.

            Like seriously, remember what Triple A means. Not even Saints and Sinners comes close to being a triple A game.

    • Cl

      Some people are never happy. What do you mean by sustain a AAA vr game? Do you mean sell enough to make a profit? That cant be it becaus they already make profit. Do you mean multiplayer? There is such a thing called crossplay, not everyone uses PC for vr.

      Once the technology gets better i bet it will grow faster.

      • Blaexe

        Do you mean sell enough to make a profit?

        Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

        becaus they already make profit.

        Indie games, yes, some. Low(ish) budget PCVR games, yes, some. But there are no AAA PCVR games which were not funded.

        AAA games cost around $50m to create. Probably more today given that development cost of AAA titles go through the roof. You are not able to make a profit with a market that small.

        • Cl

          Depends on how you look at it i guess. If you are looking at the most expensive and most successful AAA games then sure. I couldnt find exaxt figures, but many games profit off of 3 million sold and this is just looking at the PCVR users. Then theres quest and playstation. Then you have companies like facebook pouring money into VR content.

          When you say there are no AAA games that are not funded what do you mean by that?

          Id argue it doesnt matter if we get a ton of AAA games atm, but you were specifically talking about them so ill stay on subject.

          • Blaexe

            If you are looking at the most expensive and most successful AAA games

            That’s not what I’m doing. $50m is low-balling. GTA5s cost is estimated to be $250m. And that was back in 2013. Cyberpunk 2077 is above $300m.

            but many games profit off of 3 million sold

            But PCVR games don’t sell 3m units – and certainly not at full price.

            Then you have companies like facebook pouring money into VR content.

            Dude, the topic is PCVR and AAA PCVR specifically. Meta is not pouring money into that. But it doesn’t matter anyway because I was talking about a self sustaining market – i.e. no funding.

            When you say there are no AAA games that are not funded what do you mean by that?

            That there are no AAA PCVR games that were not funded by first parties. Alyx was basically funded by Valve – it doesn’t need to make a profit. Lone Echo, Asgards Wrath, Stormland, Medal of Honor, games with the biggest production value – funded by facebook because these games just wouldn’t turn a profit.

            The PCVR market is not healthy currently and without massive growth it’s not going to be a healthy market.

          • Cl

            I said psvrquestpcvr. Between those you you would get quite a bit of sales. Just like other games fo because they sell on multiple platforms. I feel like games like gta bring up the average, so i think it could be done for less than $50m

            You say meta isnt pouring money into AAA, but then you mention AAA games funded by facebook in the next paragraph…

            Im not saying it couldnt be better, but its steadily growing and dismissing it because of not having massive growth just seems unnecesarily negative.

          • Blaexe

            Between those you you would get quite a bit of sales

            But these wouldn’t be the AAA games people with powerful PCs want to play since they would have to be developed with Quests limitation in mind.

            but then you mention AAA games funded by facebook in the next paragraph…

            Because they stopped funding PCVR exlusive games a while ago…all future games will be made with Quest in mind – therefore we won’t see Asgards Wrath or Lone Echo kind of graphics and polish anytime soon again.

        • benz145

          If Alyx cost $50 million to make, it would have already turned a profit as far as we know. Estimates for ownership range from 1.38 million to 3.78 million, which correspond to $82,800,000 and $226,800,000 respectively (assuming all sales in USD at full price point).

          Not to mention the number of Index headsets/controllers/base stations that the game sold for Valve.

          • Blaexe

            First, Alyx is a complete outlier – I’m sure you agree with that. If Alyx made a profit (and that’s still an “if” in my book), then it just means that the basically most anticipated IP of all time can turn a profit in VR.

            Your math is also off since there were pretty significant discounts for Alyx and the “ownership” includes everyone with Index controllers aswell.

            Do you really argue that a more generic, 3rd party popular IP which would likely not achieve a 90+ metacritic rating that costs as much to develop would turn a profit as a PCVR only game? No way in hell.

            And not only that, why would developers and publishers take that risk in the first place, if flatgaming basically guarantees them better sales?

          • Jonathan Winters III

            In the end, PCVR is a thing. But not much of a thing anymore, or ever. Sadly. But Quest 2 is keeping the dream alive due to its Steam connectivity.

      • ViRGiN

        Technology better? I bet you’re from the crowd who believes biggest obstacle today is “small resolution and low fov”, and once that’s solved, people will fight in stores over headset like it’s black Friday sales

        • Cl

          Smaller, lighter and better optics would help. I could see it being used for business purposes and other things than just games as well.

          • ViRGiN

            i guess cambria does just that, but at higher, yet unannounced price, the benefits won’t be available for many.

    • benz145

      I think it’s a little unfair to say what a new technology “should do” in terms of growth. There’s only a handful of examples in history of new technology that has that level of sustained growth.

      • Blaexe

        We have to disagree then, I think it is fair in this case. PCVR will have to be a self sustainable ecosystem for high quality VR games rather sooner than later or dev interest will plummet (to be honest, that’s what is already happening).

        Alyx did not change much, we also have to disagree here. Go back to your earlier analysis from the years ago and see how you constantly had to lower the R² value of your projection. We’re not seeing an exponential growth anymore. Specifically the chart of active users on vrlfg shows a pretty linear growth – and that is quite simply not enough.

        • XRC

          An alternative business model for PCVR development? Flight simulator tier pricing for high quality software. Smaller, more engaged user base covering the costs.

          It’s not inexpensive to purchase a good PCVR system and powerful PC; I’d happily pay $80-100 for really compelling, high quality content which truly leverages the technology.

          • Blaexe

            But that’s the point. This high quality content which truly leverages the technology is very expensive to build and therefore a huge risk for devs if the market is not at least 10x bigger.

            Live service games make a lot of sense for VR but these are still low budget indie games usually.

        • Arno van Wingerde

          On the other hand: the Quest 2 is now 1.5 years old, halfway to the Quest 3 I would guess, the PSVR coming out next year as well. Then things will likely pick up again, hopefully with more AAA games, i am counting on Sony and perhaps also META to get their act together at that time. For PSVR, as Tabp points out, the disastrous situation around graphics card has not helped either.

          • Blaexe

            PSVR2 AAA games will likely be funded by Sony and therefore exclusive.

            And while yes, GPU availability certainly didn’t help, there are tens of millions of people with capable PCs right now that decide not to get a VR headset.

      • Tabp

        You’re just trying to cope with the facts that the GPU market is a smoking ruin so bad people will be telling their grandchildren how bad the GPU market was in 2021, the headset industry has been stagnant since the Index came out to the point where the current headset selection is practically a time capsule from the past, Facebook utterly bungled the business telecommuting opportunity offered by the pandemic, and etc etc. VR could’ve become one of those handful in history during the lockdowns when people were in dire need of a mature, affordable version of it, and it’s being held back by these embarrassing industry conditions. It was the biggest missed opportunity in 2021 that didn’t have a politician in charge.

    • Lucidfeuer

      Well you know, kool aid can kill with the right delusions, and it killed VR a while ago. Especially when you know what’s really behind the numbers (how it’s counted…)

  • NL_VR

    All the time negative comments about Steam and VR etc.
    Wonder if people actually use VR that are so negative, go play flatscreen, k thnx goodbye.

    • Jistuce

      They complain about flatscreen too.

      • NL_VR

        They complain about everything :P

  • Tommy

    Growth is growth though. As long as the numbers don’t go the other way, we’re good.

    • ViRGiN

      It declined by 0.02%. first month to do so.

      • benz145
        • ViRGiN

          Thanks for correction.

          Funny how people like to look at numbers and claim it’s growing, when the active player base is actually stagnant for years. Alyx brought 40k people at once on release, steamvr as a whole never seen such number ever again, despite more headsets now

          • benz145

            I don’t think it’s fair to say that the active player base is “stagnant for years.”

          • ViRGiN

            I don’t think it’s fair to say pcvr is growing. It’s primarily beat saber, recroom, gorilla tag and pavlov that gets all the playtime. Name a single title released in the past year that reaches even top 15.

          • benz145

            It depends what you mean by growing. If you’re talking about major new PC VR game releases, you’re right, it hasn’t been growing much in that regard in the last two years. If you’re talking about the number of people playing PC VR, that number has definitely been growing (whether or not those people are playing older titles).

          • Jonathan Winters III

            Well said!

    • Lucidfeuer

      That’s…not how it works. Investors and corporations have completely lost interest in VR, which was only somewhat maintained by the quarantines and the “metaverse” illusion which has now passed in trend. Any niche that stalls for so long is already dead (for the period being, of course VR will eventually be a thing…but not sooner than in 8-10 years AND that’s the optimistic scenario).

  • Ookami

    Not to mention Zenith MMO was the #1 top seller on the day of release–In the middle of a sale! The player count dropped a lot since then, but it sows that the demand is definitely there. Maybe Ramen VR can win back some players in future updates. We’ll just have to see.

    • NL_VR

      Thats normal with mmo games.

  • Uhuru N’Uru

    You don’t understand AAA Publishing then.
    AAA doesn’t get applied to games, because they are expensive to develop (Though they are), it’s meaning is the marketing budget must be far larger than any development costs.

    Doesn’t matter how much a game costs if it doesn’t sell, it loses money.

    The VR user base, is far to small to attract such risk averse investment, and there isn’t really a good crossover path.

    • kool

      Since there is no such industry to support that in vr, aaa vr is in my definition any game made by a studio that has successfully released a game, a game with state of the art tech and an actual release date. Marketing budgets are non existent in vr. I’ve only seen a few commercials and they were for the psvr headset.

  • Lucidfeuer

    A little bit of PR trickery and manufactured stats here:
    “‘new VR users grew 11%” is a misnomer, and the main way to know is if they’re not saying “new UNIQUE VR users”. It means that preexisting, new accounts or more importantly, duped accounts activated a headset for the first time. It doesn’t mean much about “new VR users”

    “unique play sessions grew 22%” this one doesn’t mean anything. It could means what you translated it to, or something completely different.