Half-Life: Alyx brought nearly a million VR users to Steam

VR is a blast. I’ve been playing with an Oculus Quest headset I picked up earlier this year and finding many of the experiences surprising and magical. But thanks to a high barrier to entry and few true killer-app games, VR has struggled to break into the mainstream. It’s still a work in progress, but Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx gave the tech a huge bump. Virtual reality site Road to VR says that almost a million new VR headsets connected to Steam in April.

Each month, Valve collects information from Steam users to understand what kind of hardware its users are connecting with. Road to VR says that the latest Steam Survey data shows that 1.91% of Steam users connected a VR headset to Steam in the month of April. That’s a record high, and nearly three times the previous record, which hit in December-January during the 2019 holiday season. Road to VR’s Ben Lang explains that the site maintains a model based on historical survey data, along with data points that come directly from Valve, that lets them make a reasonable estimate of how many headsets actually connected.

How many headsets?!

Road to VR estimates that 950,000 VR headsets connected to Steam in April, for a total of 2.7 million headsets. These aren’t necessarily newly-purchased headsets but are certainly headsets that had never connected to Steam. With one game, almost half-again as many users plugged their headsets into Valve’s service.

Of the various brands and models, the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift S, and Oculus Rift make up for the highest percentage of connected headsets, but the aforementioned Oculus Quest saw the biggest jump thanks to the newly-added ability to plug an Oculus Quest into a PC and use it as a PC-connected headset instead of the stand-alone play it was initially designed for. Valve’s Index headset is showing steady growth, too, though not as suddenly as that of the Quest.

While it’s hard to say that Half-Life: Alyx brought VR to the masses, it certainly brought VR to Steam in a big way, and likely has gone a long way toward proving Valve’s investment in the technology worthwhile. Valve’s Gabe Newell previously said that the company had three big VR games in the works, though recent word out of the company suggests that two of those went on hold when the third, Half-Life: Alyx shifted into high gear. It seems like Valve would be smart to capitalize on that boost, bringing more new and interesting VR titles to its service, though Valve has never been a company to adhere to any discernible logic outside of Steam’s consistent influx of cash.

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