There’s no getting around the fact that 2017 was a big letdown for the virtual reality industry. But at the tail end of a year that saw far fewer sales of VR headsets than projected, the holiday season is set to offer a bit of good cheer.
The folks at SuperData recently updated their holiday projections for sales with numbers that are slightly more optimistic. Just a couple of weeks ago, SuperData was projecting a year-over-year decline in sales for the holiday quarter for the top VR headset makers.
But thanks to some new sales data on Oculus Rift and Playstation VR, the firm is now projecting a slight increase. Not a giant one, mind you, but at least the numbers are heading in a better direction.
Overall, SuperData had been projecting sales of only 2.345 million headsets for the quarter, down from 2.57 million sold one year ago over the holidays. That would have been a surprising drop, considering it included about 100,000 units projected for Windows Holographic.
Now the firm has bumped that number up to 2.77 million for the quarter, largely because it appears the Rift and Playstation VR are selling better than expected.
Overall, sales for 2017 should be around 8.5 million, up from 6.2 million 2016, according to SuperData. The new numbers don’t erase the missteps. But they’re a silver lining for a grim year that has been cause for much reflection throughout the industry.
“Year over year, we do see growth,” said Stephanie Llamas, head of Immersive Tech Insights at SuperData. “But the predictions and expectations overall now are much different, are much lower. The problem now is that many of the people interested in purchasing these devices already have.”
In part, hype last year spiraled out of control as headsets came to market after extended waits. The high costs and absence of compelling content limited the appeal to early adopters, Llamas said.
But over the long-term, Llamas remains optimistic. The firm is projecting mild growth in sales for 2018. But it’s in 2019 that headset sales are projected to really accelerate.
Llamas believes more enterprise users are starting to embrace virtual realty. And more content will be released in 2018 as hardware prices continue to slide. But it will be the next generation of many of these products, plus wider adoption of Microsoft’s Holograph, that will really spur greater adoption, she believes.
“We’re seeing a lot more determination in the industry,” Llamas said. “How can we make these more standalone devices? The tethering to a PC is a huge inhibitor.”
She added: “I think there’s disappointment still. But people have reset their expectations. We’re really looking at mainstream penetration in two to five years.”