SuperData firm says VR was the 'biggest loser' in sales this year

VR headsets sell fewer units than expected 'due to a relatively fragmented title line-up and modest marketing effort.'

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According to games data and marker research firm SuperData, virtual reality wound up being the "biggest loser" in terms of sales this Black Friday weekend, and for 2016 overall (via GI.biz).

VR headsets are expected to sell "notably fewer units sold than expected due to a relatively fragmented title line-up and modest marketing effort," per the firm.

SuperData adjusted its 2016 forecast for PSVR units sold from 2.6 million to under 750,000. Similarly, the firm adjusted its projected sales for Google Daydream from 450,000 to around 261,000.

The firm's projections for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Gear VR remain locked in at 450k, 355k, and 2.3 million, respectively.

SuperData director of research and insights Stephanie Llamas went into detail regarding the dramatic shift in expectations for Sony's PlayStation VR headset. "PSVR had the best opportunity to benefit from the holidays but their supply inconsistencies and lack of marketing have put them behind their potential. They did not offer any first-party deals this weekend, restock bundles or market the device, pushing instead for the PS 4 Pro," she said.

"They have also pointed out that VR looks even better on a Pro than a standard or slim PS 4, so the message to most gamers is: Get the Pro now, then the PSVR later. As a result, we won't see them break 1M shipments until well into the new year."

Llamas floated a theory: that perhaps Sony intentionally curbed marketing support for PSVR until such time as the platform has more support. "Had Sony pushed the PSVR the way they've been pushing their other new hardware, the demand would have certainly fulfilled a supply of over 2 million. However, given its quiet release it's clear they're being cautious before fully investing in the tech."

Her reasoning makes sense. PSVR lacks a killer app. Until one materializes, it doesn't make sense for Sony to flood the market with headsets knowing they'll wind up collecting dust on shelves.

"They can afford to take it slow since they have no competition for now, so their supply and sales will rise steadily into 2017 as opposed to riding the seasonal wave," Llamas said.

While SuperData saw no need to adjust its projections for Oculus Rift, Llamas shared the firm's belief that the company faces its own set of challenges, most stemming from its new peripheral. "The Rift's Touch controllers are an opportunity for Oculus to penetrate, but not many headsets have moved, especially with their round-about deal where purchasers earned $100 Oculus credit rather than just getting $100 off."

As a result, developers have to choose whether to develop software for Touch or not. "This means development has slowed and is becoming another barrier to growth," she said.

Long Reads Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    November 29, 2016 2:15 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, SuperData firm says VR was the 'biggest loser' in sales this year

    • reply
      November 29, 2016 2:26 PM

      I agree with the killer app issue - however I dunno if "loser" is appropriate, it's in its infancy this year. those projected sales are arbitrary garbage.

      what I'm more concerned about is timely releases of things that drive VR. games, "vacation apps", all sorts of things need to be focused on to really grab a wide audience... and thereby support such lofty projections. TLDR: they need an install base first, with the killer app, then continual releases.

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        November 29, 2016 2:46 PM

        You're proposing a chicken-and-egg scenario: a killer app will boost VR adoption, but only after VR adoption is high will a killer app be made available.

        This article, and SuperData's report, talked about VR in the context of games. There's definitely cool stuff going on in VR outside of games, but in terms of games, most of what's out there is meant to be digested in bite-sized chunks. I want a huge world to explore: something on the scale of a Fallout 4.

        What's out there now is awesome, but it clearly isn't enough.

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          November 29, 2016 3:40 PM

          You're assuming the killer app requires AAA budget, or a huge install base. Indie games and apps in general don't need that. Besides, there's tons of money being thrown at content, at least for now.

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          November 29, 2016 3:42 PM

          I think we will continue to see the majority of VR games tailored for quick play sessions in the immediate future. Room scale VR can be really intense and at times exhausting, it's like the opposite of comfy couch gaming. 15min running from and shooting robots in Raw Data feels like an eternity.

          I really don't see myself spending hours in an action VR game, and honestly I'm fine with that.

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      November 29, 2016 3:35 PM

      David Craddock, I really like the longer format content like this. Good stuff!

      I also think Sony may be playing it low until MS makes their move. But, at the same time, the business side of me would argue that Sony would have wanted to take a more commanding lead before MS enters the market next year. Scorpio might end up being the better hardware, but the Nintendo vs Sega war taught us that hardware isn't the only thing that maters. So, Sony needed to have pushed for a killer app VR game and set themselves as the leader before MS can make it to market. They missed that opportunity. Without pushing this holiday they're going to be playing catch-up if MS can nail the launch with a killer app, great hardware, and a decent marketing push.

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      November 29, 2016 3:35 PM

      Someone is going to just have to take a big leap and make an actual game, someone willing and/or able to just eat the cost and tank the risk.

      Imagine if a Valve or Ubisoft or Blizzard just went balls to the walls and made an awesome game. Imagine if Starcraft Ghost became a VR exclusive and was awesome as fuck. What if Valve made Half Life: Adrian Shephard Lives and it was a typical masterpiece Valve title and VR exclusive.

      They'd likely lose a shit ton of money at least at first. But it would show everyone that this is the real deal.

      I wish valve would. They are the only ones that could do it imo due to the non corporate nature of the company and the insane amount of talent and money they have. They are also uniquely qualified due to being one of the best game developers in the industry and owning one of the primary VR platforms.

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      November 29, 2016 3:39 PM

      what was their initial justification for projecting PSVR at 6-8x the sales of Oculus and Vive? It was cheaper and more accessible but not by that much and it still had all the same problems around usability and software support.

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        November 29, 2016 3:57 PM

        What you just outlined probably comprised their justification, is my guess. I was in the same boat: PSVR costs less, and doesn't require consumers to invests hundreds or thousands more in the base machine to use it. I went so far as predicting that PSVR would do for VR what PS2's DVD player did for DVD sales back in 2000.

        The difference is that DVD content was flourishing. VR content isn't. I firmly believe it will. It's not going anywhere. But as others have said, someone needs to make a Proper Videogame. What's out there now is fun, but most of it amounts to tech demos: something you play around with for 10-15 minutes and then forget, or tool around with every now and then.

        I'm not going to spend between $400-$800 on a VR headset just to fiddle with glorified tech demos once or twice a week. VR needs a system seller: a Halo, a Super Mario 64. (Wii Sports is an obvious but flawed example; plenty of consumers played Wii Sports here and there but never bought another game for the Wii.)

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          November 29, 2016 4:02 PM

          yeah I mean one would certainly expect it to outsell its PC counterparts by a fair margin (including a few multiples) but their estimate seems very aggressive. It just seems a little... arrogant? to call something the biggest loser for missing your own projections. I could imagine SuperData's competitors would instead frame this as proof SuperData are poor analysts.

          They seem surprised in Sony's lack of marketing push for a peripheral. I would think one of the biggest bear cases for PSVR is how badly Sony managed the Move and how quickly they were willing to give up on it rather than fight to make it successful (and one could potentially view their efforts in the handheld space similarly).

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            November 29, 2016 4:14 PM

            I'll be following this story to see how NPD Group frames projections and actual earnings for VR when that firm releases its numbers.

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      November 29, 2016 3:59 PM

      Can this be the PSVR thread today? Those that use it, if you had tracking issues or drift, have they improved?

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        November 30, 2016 12:28 AM

        I never had any issues like those review sites on launch week, I too have a launch unit (taco bell woo) find the sweet spot for camera distance and height and its been flawless.

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        November 30, 2016 4:18 AM

        I've not had tracking issues. I've seen controllers become rotated to the left in some playroom demos, but that's all.

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      November 29, 2016 4:01 PM

      Release HL 3 on Vive only. Sales skyrocket. Gg.

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        November 29, 2016 4:15 PM

        People say that, but would you really want to only be able to play fucking Half-Life 3 in VR? Ugh. No thanks.

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          November 30, 2016 3:39 AM

          If it was made properly for VR, then yes. Yes I would be quite happy to only be able to play it in VR :)

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            November 30, 2016 7:55 AM

            Stand still, teleport, shoot, repeat. :|

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          November 30, 2016 8:13 AM

          Hell no. I have Vive and it would just have nowhere near the level of satisfaction in VR.

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        November 29, 2016 4:15 PM

        worked for HL2

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          November 29, 2016 4:27 PM

          not the same thing really. similiar though

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        November 29, 2016 4:26 PM

        in my post above i specifically didnt say HL3 because that would be bad.

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        November 29, 2016 10:06 PM

        As much as I would love to play HL3 I would not shell out $800 just to play that one game. Valve can go f themselves if they try that tactic.

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        November 30, 2016 8:30 AM

        It would be big sure but I'd wager most younger gamers don't even know Half Life.

        If you really want to boost sales put Minecraft on VR.

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      November 29, 2016 10:18 PM

      The VR breakthrough will be live entertainment on a phone, not traditional gaming. The PPV opportunity is too big to pass up - the NFL could clear an additional $250-500M on the Super Bowl alone.

    • reply
      November 30, 2016 6:39 AM

      In other news, water is wet.

    • reply
      November 30, 2016 6:50 AM

      Hmmm, I wonder why? Let me think....

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      November 30, 2016 8:14 AM

      I honestly thought Rift would outsell Vive because it seemed to have more exposure and noise, but clearly Valve being a games company, and the having touch controllers already, counted for more than I expected.