My name is Tera Nguyen. I am a Producer, passionate in using spatial computing technologies to enable new forms of entertainment, education, productivity, and social interaction. In Jan 2019, I started writing this blog series that aimed at helping indie developers price and market their VR games as well as setting the right expectations for consumers on upcoming VR content.
VR game industry overview
There are many factors contributing to the success of Virtual Reality adoption, including install base, content, active users, and high-frequency users. I started my study looking for clues in installed base through hardware sales.
According to Ben Lang’s article on RoadtoVR, the monthly amount of tethered headsets on Steam is a close indicator of the monthly amount of active VR users on Steam.
It was challenging for me to find accurate hardware sales data of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality, so I decided to focus on the state of VR content on Steam.
The total amount of VR titles on Steam as of March 12, 2019 is 2,788. There is a significant increase of titles in 2016, thanks to the launch of multiple headsets: HTC Vive in March 2015, Oculus Rift in March 2016, and Oculus Touch controllers in December 2016. The Touch controllers let players use their fingers to interact with the virtual worlds in a much more natural way than the Vive’s controllers, which may have encouraged more game devs to create Touch-enabled games for the Oculus Rift.
On the other hand, releasing games early to the market in 2015 could be seen as risky since there was no guarantee on having an addressable audience.
The chart above shows that games are developed quite evenly across HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It’s still unclear whether or not making a title exclusive to a single headset hurts or helps the title’s success. I’ll be diving into that more in future posts.
Let’s take a look on the VR titles on Steam, based on different price ranges.
There is a large amount of VR titles priced from $0–2.99. This may suggest that low pricing correlates with a high number of purchases, but as you can see next…
The chart above shows that there isn’t an inverse correlation between pricing and number of purchases. One might wonder if this is because the current VR headset owners are early adopters who are willing to spend more money on a good VR title, especially if it comes from a popular franchise.
Headset owners who pay for an expensive title are spending more time playing.
I continued to calculate the expected relative return of VR titles, using the original unit price on Steam store. Keep in mind that Steam sales can happen 5–6 times a year so the above chart shows the highest potential return for a VR title within a given price range.
It’s no surprise that action is the genre with the most released games. Casual being number 2 may suggest that VR is a suitable entertainment platform not only for hardcore gamers, but also for other demographics.
1/ Going for a low price isn’t necessarily going to make a title sell better.
2/ VR enthusiasts are willing to invest more money in a high-quality VR game.
3/ A high amount of casual VR games being released on Steam may indicate that there are opportunities for game devs to target different members of a family.
For the next post, I will create similar charts and analysis for top-selling VR titles on Steam, based on gross revenue as of 2018.