With Valve seemingly absent, the future of PC VR remains uncertain

By | August 7, 2023

Valve Index is nearing the end of its life cycle, but still sees heavy use. 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. This means that by July 2023, one in five VR headsets used with SteamVR was a Valve Index. The device has long been the second most used SteamVR headset, but is still far behind the aggressively priced Meta Quest 2.

A list of the most used SteamVR headsets in July 2023. | Image: MIXED

What else has happened since my last SteamVR review in March?

That Pico 4, launched in October 2022 in thirteen European countries, is now ahead of all SteamVR-compatible HTC headsets launched after HTC Vive (2016), i.e. Vive Pro 1 & 2 and Vive Cosmos. However, Pico’s market share of 1.54 percent is still low. Even the first Meta Quest and Windows Mixed Reality devices are used more often.

The question is whether a US launch of the device, which is still pending today, could bring about a significant increase in market share, where Oculus and Meta are as dominant as brands.

Meta will likely have 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 2020 levels according to the following Steam statistics.

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 could once again be Meta that 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 good prospect for PC VR

In the same period, the PC-VR headset Bigscreen Beyond is launched with the aim of replacing the somewhat aging Valve Index.

After four years, there are signs that the Valve Index is nearing the end of its life cycle. According to an analysis by RoadtoVR, hardware sales appear 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.

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 while a new headset was announced, it’s not clear that new hardware alone could revive the PC VR market.

Ultimately, software 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 need to take over and support developer studios to increase interest in the PC VR ecosystem. That this will happen is unlikely given Valve’s VR strategy thus far.

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