PSVR sales hit 3M, but Sony's VR future still hazy

SuperData sees Sony reaching around 3.3 million PSVR units sold this year.

PlayStation has announced that the company has sold over 3 million PSVR headsets since its launch back in October 2016, along with 21.9 million PSVR games and “experiences.” Do those numbers indicate strong VR sales trends, especially with competitors like Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, and the HTC Vive? Let’s take a look.

There’s no official sales data for Oculus or Vive, but unofficial data from Statista says that from 2017 to 2018, the Rift sold just under a million units and Vive sold 0.6 million units. For the 2016-2017 year, Rift sold 0.85 million and the Vive sold just under a million. Combined, that means Oculus Rift has sold a little under 2 million by the start of 2018, and Vive trails at around 1.6 million units. Keep in mind these are likely ballpark estimates, since without official data, it’s much harder to lock down exact numbers.

The PSVR headset had sold 2 million headsets by the end of 2017. Evidently, they didn’t need the full year to hit the 3 million mark. From February to July, however, the PSVR/Skyrim VR bundle went from the 29th sales position (out of all games) to the 100th. That's not a bad spot months after release (the standalone game earned over $2 million in 2017), but it can’t support PlayStation’s VR business all on its own. PlayStation included a list of its top-selling PSVR games, with Skyrim VR sitting pretty at the top, followed by the bundled PlayStation VR Worlds, the cartoonish Rec Room, and Resident Evil 7.

Stephanie Llamas, Vice President of Strategies at SuperData Research, says 3 million units sold is “very respectable” for a newer industry.

“AAAs have also not even begun to really dip their toes into VR, so as they trickle in there will be more content for consumers to get excited about,” Llamas said in an email to GameDaily. “The PSVR has far outsold Oculus Rift and HTC Vive because of its accessibility to consumers due to the fairly low price point, its plug-and-play capabilities and Playstation 4's 50M+ install base. Overall, we anticipate they will sell a total of 3.3M devices since launch by the end of this year, compared to about 1.1M each for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.”

Former PSVR developer Dr. Dave Ranyard, who formed Dream Reality Interactive last year, also commented on Sony's VR sales recently: "The PlayStation audience is... a very engaged audience,” he remarked. “And they are happy to pay for quality games. They have a very high tie ratio. So, that's actually very healthy.”

While the PSVR audience is engaged, 3 million attached to more than 80 million PS4s across the globe means that just a bit over 3% of the base has purchased the VR headset. Sony's long-term intentions in VR remain unclear. And with companies like Apple, Google and Magic Leap in the mix, some developer focus has shifted to AR. PSVR has definitely taken a backseat (or failed to show up at all) at Sony’s E3 press conferences in recent years. PSVR made no appearance on the main show stage during Sony’s 2018 event.

VR as a whole is experiencing a strong dip in sales. Vive responded to a recent Engadget editorial about VR’s struggles with their own blog titled “Think VR is dying? It’s just getting started.” Vive’s blog chalked up the slowing sales to a lack of enthusiasm for cheaper mobile versions that were originally meant to entice more casual users into the larger VR landscape, as well as the unreported investments from on-site VR companies and training endeavours.

Joseph Knoop is a writer for Game Daily, IGN, PC Gamer, and plenty more. He owns an irresponsible amount of Overwatch merch. Break it down with him on Twitter @JosephKnoop.