Upcoming PlayStation VR to Drive VR Global Sales in 2016: Report

Research firm TrendForce says that global VR device shipments are expected to hit 9M based on strong preorders for PlayStation VR units.

PlayStation VR headset, Sony PlayStation, VR, VR headsets, virtual reality, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR

It won't be released until October, but Sony's upcoming PlayStation VR headset is already priming the global virtual-reality marketplace. Big preorder numbers for the PlayStation VR point to the device making up some 67 percent of the expected 9 million VR devices that will be sold in 2016, according to a new report by research firm TrendForce.

Sales of the PlayStation VR headset (pictured) are expected to "overwhelm its competitors this year, taking 67 percent of the global VR device market with about 6 million units shipped," according to TrendForce data released on June 23. "In comparison, Oculus will ship 2.3 million units of Rift while HTC will ship just 700,000 units of Vive."

The report also projects sales of some 50 million VR devices globally by 2020, for a compound annual growth rate of 53.5 percent.

Helping Sony's upcoming VR headset is that sales of its PlayStation 4 (PS4) gaming consoles themselves are expected to exceed 50 million units by the end of 2016, giving it a large user base in which to grow sales of the PlayStation VR headset, according to TrendForce. "PlayStation VR is also an attractive choice for hard-core gamers because Sony and third-party developers will launch many Triple-A VR titles for the device in the near future," the report states.

What could limit overall VR sales globally, wrote Jason Tsai, a wearable device analyst for TrendForce, is that 2016's VR sales "will be mainly influenced by the supply side of the market," which has seen some vendors already being "overly conservative in stocking up their inventories before the market releases of their products."

Those vendors are "now seeing the product demand far outstripping the supply and will have to adjust their inventories in the next two quarters, or else the undersupply situation in the VR device market will likely persist to the second half of 2017," wrote Tsai.

TrendForce also estimates that the total sales in the VR market globally will be more than $70 billion in 2020, with software making up about 60 percent of that total, according to the report.

"The strong sales performances of various devices in the VR market will attract more new entrants from the hardware field," said Tsai. "Many software developers will also enter the market in the next two to three years to help expand the range of VR applications."

TrendForce did not provide figures for how many VR devices were sold in 2015 based on its analyses. The company did not immediately respond to an eWEEK request for additional data. The company's 2016 VR sales projections are down, however, from estimates made by TrendForce in August 2015, when it predicted VR device sales would reach 14 million units in 2016.

Sony's upcoming $399 PlayStation VR headset was announced in March for an October launch and is aimed at bringing virtual-reality game play to its popular PlayStation entertainment systems.

The VR headset marketplace has been getting more active in recent months as vendors have been introducing a wide range of new products aimed at VR fans.

In March, Oculus began shipping preordered units of its $599 Oculus Rift virtual-reality headsets to customers, but then came under fire from angry preorder buyers in May when the company started selling a limited number of the devices in Best Buy stores, according to an earlier eWEEK story.

Last fall, the $99 Samsung Gear VR headset went on sale, giving users the chance to view video games, movies and more in immersive, new ways. The Samsung Gear VR is a consumer version of virtual-reality headsets made by Oculus.

An April report by research firm Strategy Analytics estimated that the global virtual-reality headset market would bring in about $895 million in revenue in 2016, with about 77 percent of that revenue coming from premium-priced products from Oculus, HTC and Sony. Interestingly, the report concluded that the actual per-device sales totals would be dominated by lower-priced headsets from myriad vendors.

The report looked at the VR headset market and predicted that three of the latest devices, the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the coming Sony PlayStation VR, would bring in the bulk of the segment's revenue this year. At the same time, though, those higher-priced devices will only make up about 13 percent of the 12.8 million VR headsets that Strategy Analytics predicts will be sold in 2016, the report stated.