2016 was easily the year in which VR headsets, especially the one that are affordable, became popular. With consumer shipments kicking off finally, research firm Canalys predicts shipments of VR headsets with integrated displays will exceed 2 million units worldwide by the end of the year. By 2020, this number would have grown to 20 million, the firm predicts.
The major chunk of the volume came from basic VR headsets that rely on other devices, generally tethered by cable to a desktop PC. Smart VR headsets that function independently were in contrast just around 100,000 units. Simple viewers, such as Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View, are shipping in the millions but not included in the estimates.
Incidentally, Sony is the VR market leader with PlayStation VR for PlayStation 4 with over 800,000 shipments in less than three months. Canalys says shipments would have been more had PlayStation VR not been delayed until October. “Though some believe Sony has de-prioritised promoting VR in favour of the standard or Pro PlayStation 4s, it is not worth investing in major marketing campaigns while current supply remains sold out,” said Canalys Analyst Daniel Matte. “Sony should push VR more forcefully when supply constraints ease, and especially as promising titles such as Farpoint and Golem are launched.”
Sony has not significantly marketed the units this holiday season, but Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s US$100 discounts helped increase sales of HTC’s Vive in the US. HTC is expected to ship around half a million units in 2016, putting the Vive in second place and opening up a whole new front for the Taiwanese tech company. Facebook’s Oculus Rift is expected to reach almost 400,000 shipments this year.
“Over 300,000 VR headsets are estimated to ship in Greater China in 2016,” said Canalys Analyst Jason Low, attributing the numbers to HTC and local playes like Deepoon, Idealens, 3Glasses and ANTVR.
“The VR market has barely begun, and Canalys believes it will take several years to ramp up,” said Low, adding that there have been encouraging signs of consumer adoption and positive customer satisfaction especially among gamers. “Many billions of dollars of research and development are needed to continue advancing VR technology, form factors and software to further grow the industry.”