Looking into Early Steam Data

After seeing that large sale on Steam a few weekends ago for 20 VR games I was curious to see how gamers were engaging with VR games available on the Steam platform, and what kind of revenue we can estimate from Steam. The following is an attempt to make sense of player engagement data on Steam, estimate software sales per Vive, and tease out some other observations we can gather from SteamSpy. Just to be clear I am not touting my methodology and approach is the best or accurate, I am just curious to see what was going on in Steam as it relates to VR gaming. SteamSpy is a fantastic much needed website for this industry. Although not entirely accurate, gives us representation of player data and margins of error. These are my views only and data is pulled from SteamSpy on July 29th. Since then, more gaming downloads have occurred and a new content bundle was announced with Vive headsets. I can’t say the data is entirely perfect as SteamSpy data comes with margins of error that I didn’t include. What follows is an analysis of 183 games released in 2016 tagged “VR” on Steam that are playable on the Vive, Oculus Rift, or both.

Headsets Used

It would only make sense that most of the games featured in Steam were for the Vive platform. After all, the Vive is a VR headset developed by HTC and Valve, and Steam is Valve’s gaming a distribution platform. However, I was surprised to see how many of these actually were usable on both platforms and the small percentage of them were Oculus specific games. It was great to see that Steam is open to both headsets.

Of these 183 games that were capable of using headsets, 153 of them required a Vive or Oculus headset to play, while the rest could be played using a PC where a VR headset is optional.

Players and Owners

The numbers in SteamSpy report both Players and Owners of the game. Again differences between Owners and Players here: Owners shows how many people are estimated to have downloaded the game on their accounts which could be skewed by free weekends and promotions, so this doesn’t represent a complete picture of who paid to download the game. Players are a smaller population since it is the number of owners who not only have downloaded the game, but also who have opened the application to play it. Similar to mobile phones, apps are downloaded but not necessarily opened. Either way, charts below show that of the 183 games in our set, the majority of games have less than 10k people playing them. A small percentage of the games have been able to grab more than 100k users. Note that in the tables below are not the # of unique owners and players — it’s the total # of owners and players based on 183 games.

Owner and Player population ranges for sample set of games

Playtimes

SteamSpy reports both average playtimes and median playtimes for each game. According to SteamSpy, median playtimes are a more accurate representation of typical playtimes. Median playtimes show the majority of games that require a headset in the 0–10 min range and 1hr — 1hr 30min range.

Median and Average Playtimes for 183 VR games (All) and 150 VR Games (Requires Headset)

Pricing

Out of 183 games, most were less than $10.00. Notice below that only a few titles are more than $20.00. There are lots of free or cheap titles along with promotions and sales to entice gamers to try VR and this will hopefully accelerate hardware adoption, but the cheap demo one-time play games will not define the tethered headset VR gaming experience.

Price Ranges for 183 VR games

Potential Software Sales

Making an overly optimistic estimate (ignoring the fact many of these games have been given out for free, discounted, or bundled in with headset purchases) and estimating software sales as the # of owners and # of players multiplied by the price of the game, we can get an understanding of how much revenue were to be generated in software per Vive that require a headset. In this thought exercise we use games that 1) require a headset, and 2) exclude Oculus specific games, so only games that are Vive specific or both the Vive and Oculus Rift. We also make an assumption here that there are about 100k consumer Vives out there and there are 22k Vive Pre’s (Vive Dev Kits) for a total of 122k Vives. It’s a theoretical number so let’s call this Revenue’ based on # of owners, and Revenue’’ based on # of players. Again, these are really inflated figures. Optimistic and higher than true revenue numbers since sales, discounts, and bundling likely have had a positive effect on downloads.

based on 153 games that require a VR headset (Vive or Both).

Taking a closer look at the few higher price point games ($20+) released this year, notice that the maximum number of players is around 86.5k. Also the top games by Owners and Players (Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, and Tilt Brush) were FREE and bundled in with purchase of the Vive consumer edition.

List of VR games that cost $20.00+ and requires a headset

Let’s look at Raw Data in particular, a game not bundled in. Applying similar math tells us that if 25k people have paid for the game, and if there are about 122k Vive owners, this game alone has essentially pulled $5.54 per Vive ($31.99 x 26k owners ÷ 122k Vives = $5.54 per Vive). Raw Data’s median playtime is just over 1 hr. Take another example Call of the Starseed — at 22k downloads and a price point of$24 dollars, this is $4.33 per Vive, and this game has an average and median playtime of over 1hr (at the time of this data pull Call of the Starseed was not a free bundled in game).

Genre

I looked at what were some popular tags associated with VR. I picked nine genres I am most excited about in VR games and wanted to see which of those would appear the most out of my sample. Results as follows:

# of tags of chosen categories on sample set

This is in no way a recommendation telling developers that games with these associated tags will be more popular with VR users — just data showing what VR associated tags are for my sample. Design & Illustration tagged only to one title (Tilt Brush), and VR serves as a fantastic medium to design in three dimensions.

There is lots of room here for other games to come out and fill out the right half of the chart. I am excited for TheWaveVR to come out and Tilt Brush just released their Audio Reactive brushes. Remember Guitar Hero? It was a popular game and before the franchise’s decline, let’s not forget that it generated $2bn in sales for Activision/Blizzard back in 2010. Also, excited for Bebylon to come out, which I believe will be tagged as Action, Strategy, Sci-Fi, and maybe Sports.

Summary

Overall, VR gaming titles are seeing low player and owner rates since most of the games have less than 10k users and according to median playtimes, the majority of players are spending less than an hour of playtime. Titles released this year are seeing decent engagement. It is likely that higher price point games will continue to be discounted in the near future (EDIT: this came true now that Call of the Starseed is free), but there’s opportunity for titles to command so much demand, it won’t be subject to discounting upon launch. At the time of writing this, there are an estimated 100k consumer edition Vives shipped. Raw Data is a good proxy for future titles that will move VR gaming forward — highly creative and immersive games that encourage longer playtimes and don’t need discounting upon launch.

If there were no discounts, sales, or bundles Steam, each Vive would have generated $140 — $197 in software sales based on downloads. Obviously optimistic since the freebies and discounts likely inflated game downloads. However, this is early days and this study doesn’t include sales on Oculus Home and PlaystationVR, and the public has yet to see how those platforms will perform. I suspect spending will increase with better titles coming out at higher price points. Given the low market penetration of the headset, these fake revenue numbers are actually pretty good, but in reality user spend is way less.

Beyond gaming, HTC is looking for ways to monetize additional software and content. In June, the company released Vive Business Edition, which is the same hardware but gives businesses a dedicated support line and the ability to buy hardware in bulk. Recently, HTC announced the launch of Viveport, a new app distribution platform not as focused on games that plans to be a destination for Vive developers developing non-gaming apps such as art, educational content, virtual reality videos, travel, shopping, and experimental projects.

Big thanks to @tipatat, @ikrimae, @gammill, and Hovik Nazaryan for proof reading.