Social VR app VRChat is seeing a surge of users thanks to a well timed update and people around the world looking to connect with others while being asked to stay at home.
VRChat is a social VR app which lets VR and non-VR users connect to chat and explore worlds and experiences created by the game’s community. The app went viral back in 2018, bringing an unbelievable 17x rise in usership over the course of just a month to a peak of 20,000 concurrent users of the game on Steam. While that spike quickly faded, a surprising number of users stuck around, with roughly 8,500 concurrent users on Steam for quite some time.
Since July 2019, VRChat has steadily grown from 7,600 concurrent users on Steam to more than 12,000 at the end of February 2020.
But there was much more to come, spurred by the Coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home orders imposed by many locales around the world. On April 13th, VRChat hit its highest usership since its big viral spike back in 2018, reaching just over 16,000 concurrent Steam users.
Interestingly, this recent growth spurt has also brought a surge in Twitch viewership which has exceeded the number of Twitch viewers during the game’s original viral spike. This time around, the Twitch spike doesn’t seem to correlate as closely with the rise in concurrent users.
Now, of course, it’s important to remember that VRChat isn’t a VR-only game, it supports a desktop-mode as well. I wanted to know if the rapid growth was mostly just desktop users rather than actual VR users; when I took the question to VRChat CEO Graham Gaylor, I was surprised to find the opposite.
Gaylor told me that compared to March 2018, VRChat desktop users were up 50% while VR users were up 125%. Between all platforms, the breakdown between desktop and VR users is around 70% and 30% respectively.
While one could multiply 30% by the latest peak and figure that there’s was some 4,800 concurrent VR users on VRChat, that’s only a portion of the actual figure as it doesn’t account for those playing VRChat on Quest or Rift through the Oculus store.
Gaylor also pointed to factors beyond the Coronavirus that have been driving the growth of VRChat. On April 1st, the app was updated to version 2020.1.1, which the studio said was its “biggest release” to date. The update included a heap of new features including the ‘Udon’ alpha—a custom programming language designed to make it easier for creators to make cool content for VRChat—and a new IK system which increases the fidelity of motion-tracked movements in the game.