Months after predicting that the VR market would soon experience a rebound after a sharp drop in shipments, IDC today issued a positive report on the combined virtual and augmented reality market: Led by two headsets, the VR market saw 8.2 percent year-over-year growth in the third quarter of 2018, with AR headsets achieving a smaller 1.1 percent gain.
The quarter’s VR shipment leader was Oculus, which shipped a combined 491,000 units of its Go and Rift headsets, accounting for 25.9 percent of the entire VR market. These numbers don’t include the nearly 60,000 units sold of Xiaomi’s Mi VR, which is the same device as the Oculus Go under a different name.
But Sony’s PlayStation VR was the single best-selling headset in the quarter with shipments of 463,000 headsets, topping Rift’s 300,000 units and HTC’s sales of 230,000 Vives. The continued strength of PSVR — a tethered solution requiring a PlayStation 4 console — is particularly noteworthy given that standalone VR headsets have grown to 20.6 percent of the market. By contrast, IDC says that shipments of screenless VR devices such as Samsung Gear VR have declined by 58.6 percent, as brands including Google have “significantly scaled back their efforts” on these accessory-class headsets.
Augmented reality isn’t seeing quite the same level of interest, though. While commercial-grade Vuzix and Epson headsets helped drive industrial AR solutions to a meager 1.1 percent year-over-year growth, AR’s top seller otherwise was Lenovo’s AR toy Star Wars Jedi Challenges , which sold 23,000 units. Despite describing Microsoft’s expensive, relatively weak-selling HoloLens as “one of the most popular AR headsets” right now, IDC says sales have slowed ahead of an expected next-generation release in 2019.
Given the lack of mainstream AR headset apps and continued consumer interest in VR games, it’s no surprise that VR now makes up over 97 percent of the combined VR/AR market. That said, IDC is seeing continued interest from technology companies in AR, and expects new 2019 hardware to improve demand.
As the technology becomes mainstream, virtual reality will make more worlds open up to customers. Think of resorts sharing virtual experiences to lure adventurers to book a desired holiday, or social channels such as YouTube housing content that are simply plug-and-play—the possibilities are endless.