Last week Valve published the results of its latest Steam Hardware & Software Survey. The company’s findings revealed some interesting statistics about both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but some people are drawing conclusions they shouldn’t.
The survey, which is entirely optional and completely anonymous, includes a look at the usage of VR headsets over the past month. It shows that the first Steam VR headset, the HTC Vive, is significantly more popular on the platform than its main rival, the Oculus Rift. Some 66 percent of people that took part used the Vive, while 27.75 percent used the consumer version of the Rift (CV1). The remaining 6.25 percent used the Rift’s second development kit (DK2), meaning a 34 percent overall were using an Oculus headset.
As you might imagine, some fans and sites have taken this to mean that the Vive is significantly outselling the Rift. While we do have data suggesting that sales of HTC’s kit are performing quite well, the survey figures really aren’t any indication of how it’s performing over the Rift for a number of reasons.
Rift’s Main Platform is Oculus Home
Steam may be the biggest digital videogame storefront in the world, but it’s not the Rift’s primary platform. Instead, the Oculus Home ecosystem is far more likely to be where the bulk of Rift owners are spending their time. Not only is this the main destination to pick up Oculus titles, but it’s also the only place to purchase Rift exclusives like Edge of Nowhere. To use the Rift on Steam you even have to opt in to allowing content not acquired from Home to be used.
That’s simple to do, and no doubt many of the enthusiasts and early adopters that already have a kit have done so, but with so many of the VR games releasing on Steam needing user tracking, there isn’t much reason for people to venture outside of the Home ecosystem right now. Don’t forget the survey is optional, too, and Vive owners that spend more time or Steam are probably more likely to take part than people that have been spending all month in Oculus Home. Plus Oculus is using features like achievements and cross-buy options with Gear VR games to keep players on its platform.
There Are Way More Vive Experiences on Steam
There are currently 151 Oculus Rift experiences listed on Steam, a good chunk of which are also available on Vive. While that’s certainly impressive, Vive more than doubles it with 312 experiences listed, many of which can only be played on that headset right now. That’s simply because it’s the only device to offer the complete Room Scale package with tracked controllers. You can simulate this with the Rift and third-party devices, but Vive offers the full solution in one box.
When Oculus Touch releases later in the year then this sort of data might be a bit more reliable. The differences between the Rift and Vive will be significantly lessened and the gap between the numbers of games on the platform will likely narrow by some way. Until then, however, this is a big reason why it isn’t fair to use that data as an indication of sales.
Oculus Still Hasn’t Sorted Out Shipping
It might sound odd to defend a product by pointing to one of its biggest weaknesses, but it’s still vitally important to point out that all of the Rifts ‘sold’ are not actually in play yet. Anyone that orders the kit now will currently be put on a month-long waiting list, getting their unit sometime in August 2016. With Oculus being so tight-lipped on data, we have no way of knowing just how many more units are out there waiting to be delivered.
True, the issue seems to be reaching its resolution, but fresh complaints about cancelled orders, shipping in limbo and other problems seem to fill up forums and social media feeds every day. These are all Rifts that have been ordered but aren’t actually being played yet, and they might help to up that data somewhat when they finally do arrive.
The simple fact of the matter is that until Oculus provides sales data for the Rift, we have no way of knowing how it’s selling, and Steam surveys are not a good way to gage numbers. We won’t be able to tell how well these two are really competing against each other for some time yet.