Statistics from Steam have stirred up some controversy
The inventor of the Oculus Rift has responded angrily to a number of recent reports based on a Steam survey which declared that sales of the VR headset (and rival HTC Vive) were tanking.
The Steam stats in question (hardware survey for August) showed that only 0.18% of the denizens of Valve's gaming service use an HTC Vive, and only 0.10% have an Oculus Rift.
What's more, the Rift user base only increased by 0.01% last month compared to 0.03% growth in July, and there was no increase for the Vive in August compared to 0.03% growth the previous month.
Hence there was a fair old rash of stories declaring that these VR headsets are nose-diving, and Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey didn't respond kindly to such pieces.
Luckey tweeted: "So much clickbait about Rift/VR sales 'flatlining' or 'crashing' based on the Steam user hardware survey. Not how the data works, guys."
He then added: "It makes for a snappy headline and ample concern trolling from journos, but the only thing it indicates is exactly what it measures: The fraction of Steam users who use their headset with Steam, opt to take the survey, and have their VR headset connected when they do."
VR headsets at dawn
So, where to start here. Admittedly, the Steam survey data is a little shaky looking, and Luckey has a point in some respects. Later in the discussion thread responding to his post, he further asserts that the "vast majority of VR market never touches that survey".
It's worth noting that the Steam survey only pops up for certain users, and of course even then it's optional, so far from everyone completes it – so it not being fully representative of what's going on is basically what Luckey is getting at.
And there are certainly a few folks backing Luckey up in this Reddit discussion thread, when talking about other factors such as owning an Oculus Rift but not having it connected when taking the survey (it gets pretty warm when idling, one commenter noted, so they don't want to leave it on 24/7).
But even so, the dropping growth from July to August, with both headsets being down from 0.03% to 0.01% for the Rift and nothing for the HTC Vive still represents a decline in usage for these gadgets. Whichever way you cut it, this shows that they've got slightly less popular in the last month.
But then the argument is that the PC VR headset market is currently on such a small scale, with only a niche of enthusiast users, that you can't really read much into a small shift in numbers given the nature of how the Steam survey is delivered.
It's all food for thought certainly, but as some folks on both the Twitter and Reddit threads pointed out, there would be one easy way to clear this up in a jiffy – release some official numbers for the Oculus Rift that show the true picture of sales and growth. Somehow, we get the feeling that's not going to happen, though.