With Valve seemingly absent, the future of PC VR remains uncertain
Valve Index is nearing the end of its lifecycle, but still sees strong usage. The real question is what comes next.
In Valve's monthly Steam Hardware & Software Survey, the headset reached 20 percent market share for the first time. That means that in July 2023, one in five VR headsets used with SteamVR was a Valve Index. The device has long ranked second among the most-used SteamVR headsets, but is still far behind the aggressively priced Meta Quest 2.
What else has happened since my last SteamVR analysis in March?
The Pico 4, launched in October 2022 in thirteen European countries, is now ahead of all SteamVR-compatible HTC headsets that launched after HTC Vive (2016), that is Vive Pro 1 & 2 and Vive Cosmos. However, Pico's 1.54 percent market share is still low. Even the first Meta Quest and Windows Mixed Reality devices are used more often.
The question is whether a U.S. launch of the device, still pending as of today, could bring about a significant increase in market share with Oculus and Meta being so dominant as a brand.
Meta likely to make more of an impact on PC VR than Valve
Not much has changed in PC VR usage: It seems to continue to decline and is currently at the 2020 level, according to the following Steam statistic.
Has Playstation VR 2 helped the PC VR market? Rather the opposite is the case, as some fans of high-end VR may have switched to Sony's ecosystem.
Ironically, with Valve's current focus on Steam Deck and the seeming abandonment of PC VR, it may be again Meta who breathes some life back into the PC VR market this fall with the release of Meta Quest 3, which could deliver a better PC VR output than its predecessor.
Not a great outlook for PC VR
During the same period, the PC-VR headset Bigscreen Beyond will launch, aiming to replace the somewhat aging Valve Index.
After four years, there are signs that Valve Index is nearing the end of its life cycle. According to an analysis by RoadtoVR hardware sales seem to be declining since early 2023, and in February, hardware analyst Brad Lynch reported that Valve has stopped US production of its Lighthouse Base Stations 2.0. HTC has taken over this task and is now the sole manufacturer.
I’ve received updates from various sources that Valve’s Lighthouse 2.0 base station production has now ended in their US factory
— Brad Lynch (@SadlyItsBradley) June 16, 2023
Valve is definitely working on a new VR headset. The more relevant question is if and when they will actually release a product. So far, there is no strong indication that they will. And even if a new headset were announced, it's not clear that new hardware alone could revive the PC VR market.
Ultimately, it's software that sells hardware, and the VR developer community, which went through a rough patch between 2016 and 2018 with PC VR, has largely migrated to the more promising Meta standalone ecosystem.
With Meta no longer pouring money into PC VR game development, Valve would have to take over and support developer studios to boost interest in the PC VR ecosystem. That this will happen is unlikely, given Valve's VR strategy so far.