Half-Life: Alyx credited with big boost in VR headset sales

Half-Life: Alyx is being designed for all standard PC VR headsets, and optimised for Valve Index's controls. — AFP Relaxnews

The anticipated arrival of Half-Life: Alyx is said to have helped double sales of the Valve Index VR headset toward the end of 2019.

Valve Corp, which runs PC gaming network Steam and has produced some of the platform's most enduring and influential games, launched its own VR headset midway through 2019.

Retailing at US$999 (RM4,086) for the full set, the Valve Index offers a high-end consumer experience that includes high-resolution displays, precise head tracking, and sensor-laden controllers that detect grip and finger movement alongside traditional thumbsticks, triggers and button inputs.

According to industry analysis firm SuperData, the Valve Index sold 103,000 units in the last three months of 2019, compared with 46,000 units between June 28 and the end of September.

The uptick in demand, which has led to Valve Index hardware temporarily selling out, was directly attributed to Valve's resurrection of its iconic Half-Life franchise as a VR exclusive.

Half-Life: Alyx was revealed on Nov 21,2019, with a March 2020 release in mind.

The sales achievement also meant that the Valve Index was 2019's best-selling PC VR headset. The Oculus Rift S trailed with 71,000 units sold following a late May launch.

However, two caveats remain in place for now.

Firstly, tracking service VRLFG suggests that the vast majority of VR adoption always takes place in the last two months of any given year. Its 2019 bump, while impressive, was in line with established trends.

It uses official Steam data to record peak daily simultaneous users in VR games, producing a monthly average.

Although 2019's November to December increase of 5,193 peak monthly average users was a new historical record, as a percentage increase of 46% it stayed within a band established by November and December of 2016 (a 38% increase), 2017 (48%), and 2018 (30%.)

So perhaps VR gaming growth remains on trend, while the attributable cause (Half-Life: Alyx) has changed.

Secondly, while Valve Index sales roughly double that of Oculus VR's PC equivalent, the Oculus Rift S (May 2019, US$399 (RM1,632), 71k unit sales) and its standalone Oculus Go (May 2018, US$199 - US$249 (RM814 - RM1,018), 84k), the Index's figures were not even half that of the next step up the standalone ladder, Oculus's US$399 to US$499 (RM2,040) Quest (May 2019,317k units).

Similarly, the PlayStation 4's virtual reality system, PlayStation VR, cleared 338,000 units for the year, per SuperData's research, leaving some way to go for the Valve Index. – AFP Relaxnews

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