After Half-Life: Alyx, Only Less Than 2% of Steam Users Own VR Headsets

Despite the audience the game brought in, VR still hasn't quite taken off.

Half-Life: Alyx has added nearly one million VR users to Steam, making it a record gain for the platform. Interestingly, however, is that despite this, only 1.9% of Steam users own VR headsets.

The data comes from Valve’s recent hardware survey, which has been collected and analyzed through Road to VR. Most survey data is collected every month, so considering that Half-Life: Alyx was released on March 23, it’s until now that we have some statistics on how successful its launch was.

“The data represents the number of headsets connected to Steam over a given month, so we call the resulting figure ‘monthly-connected headsets’ for clarity; it’s the closest official figure there is to “active VR users” on Steam, though it can’t account for headsets that were connected in a given month, but not used,” writes Ben Lang. This is written before noting that Half-Life Alyx did bring the single biggest surge of monthly-connected headsets on Steam. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, the number of VR headset owners isn’t nearly as easy to positively frame.

The previous record for the biggest leap in monthly-connected VR headsets on Steam was during December and January 2019. The last holiday season saw a third of the leap in numbers of VR users that Half-Life: Alyx has delivered. And that leap also occurred due to Half-Life: Alyx: the Index VR headset sold out in all 31 regions during that time period, causing Steam to struggle to meet demands. The shortage actually began in November, but with the holiday season rolling around, Valve’s VR set quickly became hard to attain for some time.

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It’s worth noting that this data is dependent on an ever-fluctuating figure, as the percentage is relative to Steam’s population. In order to account for this and estimate an approximate amount of headsets, rather than just a percentage, Road to VR has analyzed the numbers. “From the model we estimate that April added nearly 950,000 monthly-connected VR headsets over the month prior, for a total of some 2.7 million headsets. That’s both the greatest total number and the largest single leap in the history of the data.”

As a result, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all those 950,000 headsets are new. Many could be headsets that were previously purchased but not plugged in until the release of Half-Life: Alyx.

Valve developer Robin Walker told Game Informer in March that Half-Life: Alyx is the developers’ return to the world of Half-Life rather than the end of it. The development team is made up of both seasoned veterans since the development of Half-Life 2 and those whose first in-universe project is Half-Life: Alyx, so it’s eager to remain in this world for a bit longer. In an interview with PC Gamer, Valve level designer Dario Casali stated that the series’ future is heavily dependent on Half-Life: Alyx‘s reception.

“At this point, we don’t really know what [another Half-Life game] would be—we don’t know if it’s going to be another VR title. We don’t know if it’s going to be a non VR title … The best thing we can do at this point is to gauge the response to this product. How are people able to enjoy it? How many people can we get into the VR platform? [Are] people saying that VR is now this essential part of Half-Life? We really don’t know those answers until we put the game out and we start listening.”

It’s hard to tell based on this most recent data. While Half-Life: Alyx is by far and large the biggest contributor to Steam’s VR numbers, it’s hard to say whether VR feels any less niche and more accessible to most consumers. Only time will tell the platform’s future among the general public.