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25 million PC gamers now have systems that are ready for virtual reality

There are now 25 million Steam PC gamers who have systems that are capable of hitting recommended specifications for consumer-grade virtual reality headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. This is almost double the cited figure of around 13 million at the start of 2016 and shows how much consumer graphics have improved since then.

There have been several hurdles faced by virtual reality developers when it comes to actually getting people to buy their games, and having a large enough audience with headsets is only one of them. For that audience to exist in the first place, people need PCs that can actually meet the minimum specifications, which are reasonably steep.

Fortunately, though, 2016 saw a massive drive from the likes of Nvidia and AMD in producing not only faster and more powerful graphical processors, but more affordable ones, too. That’s why the likes of HTC’s head of Vive, Daniel O’ Brien, said that graphical hardware advances have had some of the biggest impact on VR adoption.

Looking at Steam hardware statistics today, we can see that more than 14.5 percent of all Steam users have a DirectX12-compatible graphics card that’s above the minimum threshold for VR gaming (thanks RoadtoVR). With a little bit of speculative math based on official Valve numbers from a couple of years ago, we can estimate just shy of 170 million Steam users.

That works out to just shy of 25 million people with VR-ready PCs.

Of course there are a lot of guesses and estimations going into that figure, as RoadToVR highlights, but it’s certainly an interesting number to consider. It shows that although virtual reality was once seen as a relatively high bar — and to some extent, its 90FPS mandate still is — it’s coming down very quickly.

The launch of AMD’s RX series forced the price down on graphics cards pushing for that 1080P-plus resolution gaming. With Nvidia’s continued drive at the top end with Pascal, too, and AMD’s upcoming Vega graphics chips, we may see even further improvements.

Although most expect big leaps in virtual reality screen resolution in the years to come and therefore a requirement for even more powerful graphics to support it, entry-level virtual reality is becoming cheaper by the day. Now, with a potential audience that stretches into the tens of millions, the job falls on the VR hardware developers and software content creators to bring them on board.

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Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
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