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.

Data courtesy SteamDB

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.

Data courtesy SteamDB

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.

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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.

VRChat is one of many social VR apps—there’s plenty of options for hanging out with your friends and even working in a remote office in VR.

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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."
  • Arcticu Kitsu

    VRchat is great because it had time to mature. People can be dramatic and “needy” for attention when it comes to content creators and such, otherwise its been doing great. Its been a great place to see people share things one wouldn’t expect by just visiting various scenic, unique, historical, gaming, or even almost a game in a game in itself.

    Udon update really changed things further allowing for AI scripts to be a thing when going agaist tic-tac-toe opponents, and even flying worlds (Gravity Udon). VRchat keeps evolving and I love it. When you do find the right folks it becomes one of the best places to be. Tons of cool memories and such. Love it. Many cool worlds to note, to have fun in. Its glorious.

    VRchat genuinely deserves being the most popular game because it had time to mature and figure things out. Its easy to use. I’m part of the ‘essential service’ so I can’t play VRchat as much. Wish I could. I love VRchat so much that its my home VR game. Boot up VR and off I go into VRchat.

    • sfmike

      As you stated VRchat is great “when you do find the right folks”. Unfortunately all I can ever find their are annoying foul mothed kids and trolls. An old story I know but keeps me from enjoying the site.

      • Arcticu Kitsu

        It does play best with people but you can still find cool worlds solo. You can have fun interacting, exploring, and etc. If you stick to public avatars while in public worlds you will eventually find a cool person. It takes time.

        The game is cool with and without people.

    • I haven’t played it as much lately, as most of the friends I had made in it seemed to have split up, but I loved creating avatars and world in VRChat, it was by far one of the best things to ever happen to video games. Need to jump back in now that Udon is here and make some mini games!

      • Arcticu Kitsu

        Yeah, my own buddies semi-forgot about me because of passing of time and because I struggled to get my Oculus Rift going causing more of a rift in VRchat. If my Rift simply worked as intended I’d have more hours, more interaction with people, & etc.

        Even when my Rift work I have some of the most precious memories from the game. I’m happy to hear you have some irreplaceable memories as well. All those worlds, chill vibes, and happenings. Thankfully I now have a Valve Index to have fun with folks and VR again. Its up to them to also be social :)

        With Udon there is A LOT. VRchat is evolving once again. Gotta check it out before it all fades away with other worlds. Virtual Market is also incoming soon. Can’t wait to check out.

    • Ever since I joined the marching kitten band and rode a train driven by a giant manga cat lady I knew it was something completely mad but enjoyable

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  • kontis

    I’ve seen several female users there spending hundreds of hours in VR who have high-end gaming machine, Valve Index and Full Body Tracking and…. don’t like or play ANY video games – they bought it all just for this free app.

    Isn’t it what you call a killer app… huh?!

    Similar case to some addicted Second Life users, but with very expensive cutting-edge gear.

    This is happening right now. Meanwhile Facebook chases their imaginary goals instead of offering some kind of full body tracking – they had years to catch up to Velve/HTC, but nope. Let’s chase their imaginary business people using smartglasses for work. They have time. It’s not like Apple will jump on it and pull the rug from under their feet once the tech is ready…

  • Ryan McClelland

    I’ve been enjoying Altspace much more because it seems easier to find people to have a normal conversation with. Maybe it is just because I am middle aged. I feel like I don’t ‘get’ VRChat. Everything seems to be very empty compared to Altspace, despite all the concurrent users. What am I missing?

    • Pikapetey

      Surface level VRchat is very bad impression. Because everything is community driven and made, you have a lot of very inexperienced creators making worlds and uploading them. Some may not know about proper optimization. There is no Vetting process for worlds.
      Most interesting people on Vrchat are deep in the game, beyond what a new first user would see. thats where it gets super interesting. Games, puzzles, cross platform Augmented Reality games. It gets more and more insane the deeper you go. It is truly the wild west of the creative community in vr.
      Example: on the 18th for Connan’s Birthday there was a dance competition for Connan. every contestant had to have full body gear. The world was nuts and it was so much fun to participate in.
      On the 28th is when Vket will have it’s opening ceremony, Vket is the virtual market put on by the Japanese community with a CRAZY concepts for how to hold a convention in VR.

  • martin

    i think i’ll try VRChat soon. reminds me of Playstation Home and the modicum of fun i had in there.

    • Arcticu Kitsu

      That’s why I started playing VRchat as well because it reminded me of Playstation Home. There are even worlds dedicated to it in VRchat so you may find nostalgia there. Only scenery though.