Presenting at VRX Europe, the CEO of studio nDreams estimated there are nearly 15 million monthly active users split across high-end VR, mobile VR and cardboard.
nDreams CEO Patrick O’Luanaigh’s talk was framed around Mark Zuckerberg’s goal of getting “1 billion people in VR”, and O’Luanaigh discussed what might make that achievable by 2025.
“I strongly believe that nearly every VR headset being used in 2025 will have both 6dof inside-out tracking and either 6dof controllers or Leap Motion style hand tracking,” O’Luanaigh explained. “We’ll look back on current headsets with their cables, requirement to use a mobile, PC or console, and external sensors in the same way as we look back on old Nokia mobiles or Atari consoles. I also think most headsets will use 5G cloud ‘edge’ rendering by 2025 to deliver console quality visuals on very cheap headsets/glasses with sub 10ms latency from moving your hand to seeing an image.”
O’Luanaigh said his estimates for the current VR market size come from a variety of sources including analysts and conversations with folks in the industry. Device manufacturers have been publicly quiet about sales figures, though Samsung and Sony shared some milestones. Overall, solid indications of the growth or health of the VR market have been sparse. There has been the occasional indie software developer sharing apps sales figures — like Beat Saber or H3VR — but that only offers a look into a slice of the available market. nDreams has shipped a number of VR titles on a variety of platforms, so O’Luanaigh’s figures make for a notable estimate.
The monthly active user figure O’Luanaigh shared assumes there is an install base of 4.5 million “High End” VR headsets, 9 million “Mobile VR” headsets alongside more than 12 million cardboard headsets. The figure also bundles in some assumptions to get to the monthly active user estimate, including different percentages of each category headset in use each month as well as a multiple to account for headsets being shown to more than one person.
What matters, in my view, is what kind of VR content sells the best, and what kind of VR hardware enables it to do so.
“Based on our sales, and the average price points, I strongly suspect that the average high-end user spends more on VR than the average mobile VR user,” O’Luanaigh said.
That fits in line with our expectations regarding the increasing immersion and agency experienced in the kind of hand-controlled VR we love on Rift, Vive and PS VR. The estimates, though, also raise questions about just how successful the first generation of standalone VR headsets will be. Is there still time for headsets with pointer-only controllers to expand the market before standalone headsets with full hand controls arrive?