The virtual reality (VR) headset market has been chugging along at a steady if uninspiring pace over the past few years as manufacturers work out the kinks standing between the still-developing technology and wide mainstream adoption.
According to marketing intelligece firm Trend Force, global VR headset shipments grew 25 percent between 2017 and 2018, to 4.65 million units, and are expected to grow by 29 percent in 2019. Sony’s PlayStation VR still leads the market, but Facebook’s growing line of Oculus headsets is close behind.
According to Trend Force and Statista, Sony’s estimated market share has dropped from 43 percent in 2018 to 36.7 percent in 2019. Conversely, Facebook’s has risen from 19.4 percent to an estimated 28.3 percent as popular new Oculus products like the Oculus Go, Oculus Rift S, and Oculus Quest enter the market.
Facebook has big plans for VR in 2020, announcing a multiplayer VR interface linking various Oculus devices in a VR world where they can explore, play games, and socialize with friends. Facebook Horizon will enter a closed beta next year.
Sony and Facebook combined accounted for 63 percent of VR shipments last year, a figure set to rise to 70 percent in 2019. In a distant third is HTC, which remains relatively static from 12.9 percent market share in 2018 to an estimated 13.3 percent this year. HTC just released the new HTC Vive Cosmos headset to add to its VR hardware line.
Statista also mentioned Microsoft, which had a 3.2 percent market share in 2018; the firm couldn’t provide 2019 estimates. In addition to the enterprise-focused HoloLens 2 on the augmented and mixed reality end of the market, Microsoft supports a broad ecosystem of VR headsets from manufacturers including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Samsung through its Windows Mixed Reality platform.
As VR players finally figure out how to go untethered without losing high-fidelity graphics and processing—a complex problem that manufacturers have been tackling for years—the VR market may be ready for the kind of big jump Facebook is betting on. The other X-factor is the eventual rollout of 5G networks, which will finally give not only wireless VR headsets, but the explosion of cloud gaming services, the infrastructure to flourish.