Tech industry experts have said virtual reality (VR) will play an important role in the future of gaming. However, the disappointing sales performance of a major gaming company’s flagship VR hardware suggests the technology isn’t ready for primetime.
Sony recently announced it has sold 4.2 million PlayStation VR headsets since the peripheral’s release in late 2016. Though the electronics giant framed that number as a “milestone,” its sales suggest consumer demand for VR technology is not robust. Ars Technica recently illustrated this fact with a post comparing the add-on console’s sales with other recent gaming systems and accessories.
PSVR vs. Eighth Generation Consoles
First off, the piece examined how the PSVR stacked up against other mainstream eighth generation consoles such as the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and even the short-lived Wii U. As it turns out, all three sold more units during their release windows than the virtual reality headset.
The PlayStation 4 outperformed VR headset 43 days after its release. The XBOX One hit the 5 million units sold mark in just 154 days.
Lastly, the much-maligned Wii U, which was discontinued five years into its life, moved 3.91 million units in 317 days. Despite what Sony says publicly, the company can’t be happy its latest product was trounced by one of the decade’s biggest gaming flops.
However, as the PSVR can’t be used without the PS4, it’s worth considering how the expensive add-on has done compared to other peripherals.
PSVR vs. Other Notable Peripherals
The PSVR’s sales still don’t look good even if the hardware is judged purely as an accessory. To date, the virtual reality headset has been purchased by 4.4 percent of the world’s 94.2 million PS4 owners.
The PSVR has a mixed record when compared to old school gaming console peripherals. It outperformed the Sega32X, an add-on that allowed the Sega Genesis to run 32-bit games. The machine was only bought by 2.16 percent of Genesis owners back in the mid-90s.
However, the VR headset has had weaker sales than the Sega CD. Released in 1991, the peripheral was considered overpriced and received weak support from its maker.
Ultimately, the Sega CD was discontinued in 1996 after being sold to 7.2 percent of Genesis owners. Still, Sega only moved 2.24 million CD-based add-ons, so Sony beats Sega in total units sold.
Finally, the PSVR was totally crushed by the Microsoft Kinect. The motion controller sold 24 million units between 2010 and 2013, meaning it was purchased by 31.5 percent of Xbox 360 owners.
So, Why Hasn’t the PSVR Sold Better?
The PSVR’s soft sales are likely due to a number of factors. Primarily, VR tech hasn’t really taken the gaming market by storm. Currently, the PSVR has outsold the Oculus Rift by a factor of four.
Also, Sony has moved three times as many PSVRs as HTC has Vives. The Sony-made accessory has sold more units than all PC VR headsets combined.
Additionally, the PSVR’s lack of wide adoption may be due to its pricing. At launch, the headset was sold for $399, the same price point as the PS4. As the peripheral is incapable of playing games by itself, it’s a hard purchase to justify.
Plus, though the system has sold more than 21 million games, it has yet to produce a breakthrough title akin to “Halo” or “Marvel’s Spider-Man.”
Still, Sony isn’t planning on giving up on its virtual reality headset anytime soon. Shawn Layden, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, told Game Informer the company sees the PSVR as a 10-year project.
Moreover, the gaming giant announced plans to release 14 new games throughout the rest of the year. If one of those new titles takes off, the company might be able to bring the VR market into maturity.
However, the PSVR will have some high-profile competition soon. Valve recently revealed it will release a VR headset called the Valve Index this May.