Report: VR headset market is dominated by Google Cardboard


— 10:00 AM on February 22, 2017

After a bunch of false starts, 2016 was finally the "Year of VR." The first offerings arrived a while before that, in the form of the Google Cardboard "headset" and Samsung's Gear VR. Last year, though, the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Sony PlayStation VR all made it to market. Analyst firm Strategy Analytics looked at the VR market at the end of 2016 to see which company made the most money, and which offering ended up in front of the most eyes.

In terms of market penetration, Google Cardboard isn't just the winner—it's roaring atop the corpses of its challengers. Strategy Analystics says its data "shows that Google has a commanding lead in terms of shipments and installed base for its ultra-low cost Cardboard VR platform." While Google Cardboard's stranglehold market share amounted to a very nice 69%, Samsung Gear VR came in a distant second with a 17% market share. The three high-end VR solutions (Rift, Vive, and PlayStation VR) collectively total just under 5% of the market share, even less than the 9% in the "other" category.

On the revenue side, it's all about Samsung. Strategy Analytics says the Korean company captured 35% of the money. Sony's PlayStation VR came in second, taking in at least 15% revenue. Combined, those two companies took half of the VR-related revenue in 2016.

Strategy Analytics says that Google's high market penetration means that marketers and brands are already looking at VR as a promotional tool. Smartphones are ubiquitous, and Google Cardboard is just $15 from the Google store and quickly closing in on a price that would allow ambitious marketers to give it away. The analyst firm also sees 2017 as being a year in which the companies offering VR platforms will either "cement their position or fall by the wayside."

Six competing headsets makes for a highly-fragmented market, and while some games and applications (like those being developed by Ubisoft) are multi-platform titles, many are still tied to a specific platform. Some early adopters will surely be disappointed, but we'll see who's still standing by the end of this year.

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