Hardware survey shows Steam's VR growth has stagnated

(Image credit: Valve)

This year's surge in VR headset ownership among Steam users has proven unsustainable, though gains have held in a user base that started the year some 1 million strong. The launch of Half-Life: Alyx in March saw a record gain of some 1 million more connected headsets. That meteoric growth of Steam's VR population has stagnated to normal levels in the following six months, however, given results from September's Steam Hardware & Software Survey.

Over the last few months the number of active headsets has largely failed to keep up with the rapid growth from March to April of this year. In short, the one-time surge of new users has stuck around, but overall growth hasn't accelerated. The industry watchers at Road to VR noted that much of the surge had stuck around after Alyx, guessing that some 2.6 million headsets had been connected to Steam overall. 1.93% of Steam users had a VR headset connected in July.

However, August's hardware survey dropped to 1.70% of Steam users from July's 1.93% high, and June was lower at 1.67%. September has seen an uptick, back to 1.88% of users, but that means the last six months of numbers simply haven't shown more sustained growth than years past.

Two quick notes on these numbers: First, Six points of data isn't a great sample size for any analysis, and we likely won't be able to draw definitive conclusions on growth rates for another year. Second, these trends are likely affected by a shortage of Valve's own Index headset and a lot of financial uncertainty around the world in 2020.

It was inevitable that the allure of a new Half-Life game would see Steam's population of headset users increase. What wasn't inevitable is that the increase in VR adoption rate would continue, and that looks to be the case, though many of those new users have stuck around to play. It seems likely that without a steady stream of high profile games to push sales VR will continue to be a niche less than 2% of Steam users indulge in.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.