Although we know that readers of this blog are likely to be champions for VR technology, on the whole the industry has been struggling this year. According to a report from the IDC (International Data Coporation), whilst the virtual reality market is up 25.5% compared to last year, sales are still slumping and companies are now managing to sell less VR headsets than before.
That being said, one company is still managing to lead the way and outsell all other competition. Samsung’s Gear VR headset has enjoyed plenty of success this quarter and the brand now make up 26.7% of the market. However, will they be able to stay on top or will rivals such as Sony catch up before the Christmas retail season hits?
Why Are Sales Slumping?
When VR headsets were first brought to market, they were a highly exciting prospect. Early adopters thought that it would be simply a matter of time before the technology was commonplace in most households. However, this hasn’t been the case and instead, sales for headsets have slowed down.
Jitesh Ubrani, the senior research analyst for IDC, attributed this decrease in sales to how expensive headsets can be, and also because of how confusing VR can seem at first. He stated that “growth in the VR market has been rather sluggish compared to other recently introduced technologies, as the amount of investment and, more importantly, the need for end user education is extremely high for VR.”
He also added that “though the recent price cuts across all major platforms will help alleviate one of the barriers to adoption, providing consumers the opportunity to learn about products and try before they buy is still a significant hurdle faced by most companies.” In short, people don’t know enough about VR technology to justify investing in a headset.
Samsung VS Sony
Both Samsung and Sony are big players in the VR market and, in fact, combined they make up a market share of 51.1%. This means that all eyes are on these two brands to increase VR headset sales before the Christmas shopping season begins.
Samsung have been the market leaders for quite some time and they don’t look to be slowing down any time soon. However, the IDC report shows that Sony is gaining ground. This is because of the launch of the PlayStation VR Headset.
As mentioned above, one of the biggest problems with VR technology is that consumers don’t feel familiar enough with it to excuse the hefty price tag of a headset. However, when paired with something that’s well-know and recognizable like PlayStation, the VR headset is seen as a simple add on instead of being treated as a whole new technology.
That being said, Samsung are still the ones to watch as they’ve outsold every other brand in the last quarter. For VR fanatics, this hardly seems surprising as the company has been very committed to introducing their headsets to existing customers. For example, the Samsung Gear VR is often bestowed to customers to pre-order the brand’s smartphone such as the Galaxy S8.
Furthermore, the recent addition of a controller for the Gear VR seems to have made a difference. Much like how Sony is combining their VR headsets with the PlayStation name, having a controller brings the headsets back to something that feels more conventional and so the user experience is improved.
The Race For Christmas
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding and it’s Christmas pudding we’ll be eating whilst these brand’s work out who is leading the VR race. As you may well know, the festive retail period is peak selling season for all sorts of companies and in the past decade, it’s been an especially important time for tech and gaming manufacturers.
Both Samsung and Sony will already be gearing up to have as successful a Christmas period as possible, but who will come out on top? There are a few things to consider, but we’re putting our money on Sony actually!
As we’ve already touched upon, Samsungs success with the Gear VR has been in part due to the fact they’ve been giving them away with the release of their new smartphones. However, the IDC report suggests that the brand may have decided that their newest headset, a Note-specific Gear VR, will not be bundled with the Galaxy Note 8 smartphone. This means that Note 8 customers will have to research and actively purchase the latest Gear VR headset separately. This could be detrimental to Samsung’s Christmas sales, as we already know that many consumers aren’t motivated enough to buy a VR headset.
In contrast, Sony have announced a price cut for the PlayStation VR Headset. This tackles the other main problem with VR sales, namely that consumers think the technology is too expensive to invest in. All in all, it looks likely that Sony could overtake Samsung by the end of the year!