So, both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have been on the market for over a year now. I think it's time to look at some sales figures.
It appears that neither company is directly publishing exact sales figures (I wonder why), so these figures are based on estimates by analysts, but I think they are probably at least in the ballpark.
But before we go to those figures, let's get some perspective by looking at sales figures of other gaming hardware, for comparison.
The PlayStation 4 was released in November of 2013. In the United Kingdom alone it sold 250 thousand units within 48 hours. In the United States that number is over a million. Overall, by the end of December of that year (ie. one and a half months later) 4.2 million units had been sold worldwide. One year later that figure had climbed to 18.5 million. (As of January of 2017 the estimate is 53 million.)
The Xbox One was slightly less popular, but still sold like hotcakes. It was likewise published on November of 2013 (about a week later than the PS4), and it sold about a million units within the first 24 hours. By the end of the year (ie. a bit over a month after release) it had sold approximately 3 million units. One year later the console had sold about 10 million units.
The PlayStation 3 was released on November of 2006. By the end of that year it had sold about 1.7 million units, and a year later 10.5 million.
The Xbox 360 was released on November of 2005. By the end of the year it had sold 1.5 million units, and a year later 7.6 million.
For the Nintendo DS (released in November 2004) those figures are 2.8 million by the end of the year and 14.4 million a year later. Its successor, the 3DS, was released in February 2011. Within three months it had sold 3.6 million units, and within a year about 17 million units.
These ought to give a generic picture of what the sales figures of popular gaming hardware is. Almost invariably they will have sold about 10 million units within a year, often more.
So what are the sales figures for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive now that they have been out for a year?
HTC Vive: Approximately 420 thousand.
Oculus Rift: Approximately 355 thousand.
That's less than one twentieth of what new consoles typically sell within a year.
Even the PlayStation Vita, which is generally considered a commercial failure, sold 1.2 million units within a couple of months, and about 4 million within a year.
Fans of VR still keep telling me that VR is a success, it's marvelous, it's the future, and will revolutionize video gaming as we know it. How long will they keep saying that, I have to wonder. Those sales figures don't really back up their claims.
I'm not saying that VR will never experience a resurgence and a huge boost at some point. However, so far it seems really, really bleak. VR headsets are selling much, much worse than other gaming hardware that have been considered commercial failures.