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VR meeting headwinds in consumer market; can it prevail?
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Will Virtual Reality meet the same fate as that other highly touted video technology, 3-D? A new report says consumer interest in VR is waning, at least according to sales-rank data from Amazon.

The report, from Thinknum, says the sales rank on Amazon of four major VR headsets have tumbled in recent months, with a former Top 10 device now nearing No. 100.

That device, the relatively new Oculus Go from Facebook, which was released in October 2017 and sells for just under $250 (the 64GB version), was launched as the next generation of VR. It didn’t require a computer, was wireless and boasted of being a standalone device with no phone to drop into or PC to attach.

Three other well-established headsets also have seen their sales rank tumble:

Sony’s PlayStation VR, which was released in October 2016, sells for $349 (with Skyrim bundle). It’s Amazon sales rank has dropped from No. 29 in February to No. 100 this month, according to Thinknum.

When the HTC Vive was a heavy hitter – especially for the pocketbook – when it was rolled out in April 2016. In March it was a Top 50 seller according to Amazon’s sales rank, today it, too, is closing in on No. 100.

The Samsung Gear VR headset is the least expensive of the four major headsets at just $103 in 2018. Still, its top-selling model has never ranked above No. 100 since November 2016.

It’s worth noting that the Vive and PlayStation VR/Skyrim bundle are both currently only available through third-party sellers, which likely impacts their rankings somewhat.

But it’s also worth noting that all of the headsets – including the Gear VR with phone attached – weigh more than a pound, about the same as 20 AA batteries or a bottle of craft beer, neither of which I’d like to hang off my head for an hour or so playing a videogame or watching the World Cup.

But will VR meet the same fate as 3-D? I don’t think so, but there are a number of hurdles to overcome, among them: a shortage of content, too much low-quality content, price and, well, the headsets themselves. 

VR’s interface has a long way to go, as I’ve been saying for the past two years. Just as 3-D headsets were unable to gain mainstream traction, VR headsets also will stumble.

Ericsson in September said a third of global consumers would use VR by 2020, compared to 10% today. That number was based on a survey of users’ “intent to buy,” a mechanism that is sketchy at best.

To deliver the real value of fully immersive video, lightweight glasses, or, better yet, no headset at all, is the future. And of, course, having technology that can deliver a Five 9s experience is table stakes.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Ooyala. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn

Jim O'Neill

An award-winning industry expert and futurist who specializes in the convergence of traditional TV and the Internet. My focus includes pay TV, Cloud TV, OTT, multiplatform media delivery, the ecosystem that surrounds it and consumer trends. A frequent speaker at CES, NAB, Digital Hollywood, Park’s Associates Connections events, Streaming Media and Digital Entertainment World, among others. I'm the Editor of Videomind, which in the past year has won awards from Editor & Publisher and Digiday. I'm also the Principal Analyst at Ooyala. I'm based in Michigan. I formerly was an analyst at Parks Associates and editor of FierceOnlineVideo and FierceIPTV. 

You can follow on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on Linkedin