The Number of VR Users on Steam Dropped Sharply Last Month Leave a comment

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Valve’s monthly Steam Hardware & Software Survey, which we’ve been carefully tracking for years now, has been a useful way to gauge how many VR headsets are being used on the platform each month. The latest data shows an odd, sharp drop in the number of VR users on Steam, but Valve isn’t saying why.

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.

Monthly-Connected VR Headsets on Steam

We’ve been tracking the data on VR headsets published in the Steam Hardware & Software survey ever since first-gen VR headsets hit the market. The number of monthly-connected VR headsets on Steam has always seen ups and downs, but last month was different.

In the latest data we saw a surprisingly sharp drop in headsets used on Steam. In fact, it’s the single largest drop we’ve ever seen in the data set—from 2.31% to 1.86%—which is why it stood out as perciular.

While it’s easy to look at the data and see that there have been upswings that are nearly, or as large, as the drop, the major upswings have had fairly clear explanations: the big jump from March 2020 to April 2020 was largely due to the launch of Half-Life: Alyx, while the jump from December 2020 to January 2021 was likely due to the holiday season (with Quest 2 having just recently launched). As for this big drop in the last month, we haven’t been able to come up with any clear explanation.

Road to VR has reached out to three separate people at Valve, on multiple occasions, for comment on the data, but we’ve received no response. Until then, we can only really wait to see if next month’s data brings any answers.

We have seen the Steam Hardware & Software Survey report some funky VR numbers here and there over the years, but usually a correction comes within a week or so. Here we are, three weeks into the month, and nothing appears to be changing. So at this point we can’t say for certain which of the following is true:

  • The data is correct, but the explanation for the drop is unknown
  • The data is correct, due to some kind of statistical adjustment made by Valve
  • The data is in error

Share of VR Headsets on Steam

Looking at the breakdown of individual headsets in use on Steam, we don’t see any strange jostling that we might expect to come with the odd drop in overall headset use.

Despite somewhat notable losses from Rift S (–0.69%), original Rift (–0.54%), and Quest (–0.08%), Quest 2’s gains (+1.74%) managed to grow Facebook’s share of headsets on the platform overall, pushing it to more than 60% for the first time.

Even with the strong growth of Quest 2, other headsets found some room to grow too, like Valve Index now at 16.68% (+0.19%), Vive Cosmos at 1.75% (+0.56%), and even the original HTC Vive at 11.24% (+0.13%).

Windows Mixed Reality dropped slightly to 5.48% (–0.17%), though this marks a three month loss-streak, down from 6.50% share back in March.

HTC’s Vive Cosmos Elite took a larger hit down to just 0.14% (–0.68%), making for a five month loss-streak. Combined, all of HTC’s headsets on Steam now account for 15.22%, less than Valve’s Index headset.

This month’s data also reflected the debut of two new headsets, HTC’s Vive Pro 2 at 0.08% and Pico Neo 3 at 0.27%.

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