915,000 PS VR virtual reality headsets have found buyers since its launch in October, Sony revealed on February 27, during an interview with its president, Andrew House, with the New York Times. The manufacturer of the PlayStation 4 is rather ahead of its modest goal of one million copies sold in six months.
According to the estimates of the firm SuperData, its two main competitors, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, both much more expensive, had sold respectively 243,000 and 420,000 pieces in 2016. Sony was also faced with stock supply problems, and many orders could not be fulfilled on time. Production should become more fluid from April, Andrew House promised. SuperData had revised down its forecasts for the PS VR at the beginning of the year, calling virtual reality in general the “big loser” of Christmas.
“A million is nothing”
The installed park of PS VR remains very limited for a gaming device. “Sony seems rather satisfied with this figure, but it’s rather disappointing in my opinion,” commented the influential German analyst Serkan Toto in the columns of the Wall Street Journal, stressing that for game developers, “a million is nothing”.
In order to maximize their sales, studios are indeed focusing on machines with the widest installed base, or with the fastest adoption rate. For comparison, on an admittedly different product, cheaper and supported by a more aggressive marketing campaign, Microsoft had sold 10 million Kinect game camera in four months, in 2010-2011, a record for a gaming device. This had not prevented the production of games on it from being abandoned almost a year and a half later, the market remaining insufficient compared to the 160 million PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 machines then in circulation.
The development of new video games is currently mainly focused on the PlayStation 4-Xbox One-PC trio, with a close ecosystem and a large cumulative installed base. At the end of 2016, Sony had passed the 50 million consoles sold, and Microsoft, the 26 million. At 915,000 units, the PS VR therefore still plays in the court of the “little ones”. For several months, several voices, including at Sony, had been raised to warn that the adoption of this technology would be much slower than its media coverage may suggest.