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The State of the VR War – Checking in Six Months Later

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 10/17/2016

It’s been a long six months since we last checked in with Oculus and HTC on their respective VR platforms. How is each doing? Has a clear winner emerged? Let’s dig in and find out.

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    The Systems

    Unfortunately, HTC and Oculus make it difficult to gauge the exact number of units sold for their VR platforms. However, we can look at a few data points to try to get an idea of who may be winning the war.

    First up is Google Trends – our friendly way of taking search terms and pitting them against each other to see which is more popular. If we take the trend and compare “htc vive," “oculus rift" and “playstation vr" we end up with the graph in Figure 1. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Vive and Rift both had their peaks earlier in the year – right around each platform’s release – Oculus in March and Vive in April. Oculus was clearly the most “popular" platform in terms of public interest towards the beginning of the year, but by mid-April, Vive and Oculus were neck and neck. As time has gone on, interest seems to be waning while the upcoming PlayStation VR (release date of this October) is starting to gain traction.

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    Second – based on some digging and assumptions, the VR information site “roadtovr.com”, estimated about 100,000 Vives had been sold by July 2016. This was based on the number of owners reported on SteamSpy for one of the bundled games that came with the Vive. Unfortunately, this bundle is no longer active and the game can be purchased outright so this method for estimating sales no longer works.

    In any case, I think we can assume that beyond the initial few months of sales, VR systems have not been flying off the shelves. If HTC or Oculus were breaking records, they would have been touting this long ago.

    It’ll be interesting to see how interest changes once the more mainstream PlayStation VR system comes out.

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    The Games

    Both Oculus and Valve (HTC’s Software partner on the Vive) promised a wide variety of launch title for each system. Six months later, has the flow of games continued or have things slowed down?

    The Oculus Rift is a bit confusing in how it handles games. The Rift’s official store is the Oculus store. By default, the Rift can’t play games from other sources. Luckily it’s easy to change this, but still, having to purchase games in two places not knowing if Oculus will lock out third party stores altogether makes buying games for Rift more confusing (and risky) than it needs to be.

    Looking at the Oculus store there are currently 75 games available ranging in price from $5 to $60. In addition to games, there are tech demos, applications like virtual desktops and interactive stories. Based on the popular VR game tracking site “vrgamesfor.com," an additional 12 games will be released in October 2016 and an additional 53 within the next year. If we look at Oculus compatible games on Steam, there are 250 games. It looks like developers are still in their honeymoon period with the Rift.

    Let’s look at Vive. Luckily, numbers are a bit easier to get for the Vive, as the singular storefront is Steam. If we do a Steam search for Vive compatible games, we come up with a whopping 630 titles. If we go back to “vrgamesfor.com," we can see 19 upcoming titles in October with an additional 70 titles coming in the next 12 months.

    From a games standpoint, you can’t argue that there isn’t enough content for VR devices…It looks like Vive has the edge over games and ease of use right now, but Oculus is no slouch.

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    Wrapping Up

    Based on the information we covered earlier, we can make a few assumption. The main issue plaguing any new technology platform is lack of content. I’m happy to conclude that there is no issue with content for either platform with hundreds of VR compatible games available today and hundreds more coming.

    Can we conclude VR is a runaway success? No – probably not. I think both systems are doing well, but they aren’t breaking records. Will VR stick around? I think so – as I said earlier, lack of content can quickly kill the best designed device. As long as developers continue making experiences for VR (and VR owners continue buying them), it should give manufacturers time to get their second edition platforms out which hopefully make VR easier to use and more palatable cost wise.