Over two million VR headsets to ship in 2016

If you didn’t notice, 2016 was something of a breakthrough year for virtual reality (VR), and now new predictions from Canalys are estimating that shipments will exceed two million VR headsets.

The firm also predicts that number will grow to 20 million by 2020. 

The majority of shipments from 2016 are basic VR headsets that rely on other devices, such as HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, with shipments of smart VR headsets – which can function independently – expected to reach over 100,000 by the end of the year. The estimates only include headsets with integrated displays, so your Google Daydreams and Samsung Gear VRs aren’t to be found in this report. 

Sony has, as expected, become the market leader for VR with its relatively affordable Playstation VR catering to an established install base. The company hasn’t released any figures yet, but Canalys is expecting over 800,00 shipments in less than three months on the market. The company would have shipped more if it weren’t for manufacturing problems with the headsets’ OLED displays.

"Though some believe Sony has de-prioritised promoting VR in favor of the standard or PlayStation 4 Pro, it is not worth investing in major marketing campaigns while current supply remains sold out," said Canalys Analyst Daniel Matte. "Sony should push VR more forcefully when supply constraints ease, and especially as promising titles such as Farpoint and Golem are launched."

While Sony has not significantly PlayStation VR during the holiday sales period, Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw significant discounts to help increase sales of HTC’s Vive. The Vive will ship around half a million units in 2016, putting it in second place. Facebook’s Oculus Rift, meanwhile, is currently getting a boost from its long-awaited Touch motion controllers, and will reach almost 400,000 shipments this year.

"Over 300,000 VR headsets are estimated to ship in Greater China in 2016," said Canalys Analyst Jason Low. "HTC has led the charge, while local vendors, such as Deepoon, Idealens, 3Glasses and ANTVR, have provided their own unique innovations and localization efforts that are vital for the massive Chinese market. Business model experimentation is especially important to monitor due to unique economics and the sheer speed of development."

Some highly anticipated products from large vendros were delayed until 2017, leaving a significant amount of room for growth, said Low: "The VR market has barely begun, and Canalys believes it will take several years to ramp up.

"There are encouraging signs of consumer adoption and positive customer satisfaction, however, especially among gamers. Many billions of dollars of research and development are needed to continue advancing VR technology, form factors and software to further grow the industry.’

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