Last weekend, we published an editorial that used Amazon sales rank data to chart the decline of VR headsets. The article examined the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Oculus Go, and Samsung Gear VR, and reached the same conclusion with each: Every headset saw an early surge, but sales went into a tailspin soon after launch.
HTC issued a response to our editorial titled “Think VR is dying? It’s just getting started.” Posted on HTC Vive’s official blog, the response states there is a reason for the decline in sales beyond a lack of interest. Instead, the company claims the decline was due to lack of inventory, as the Vive was sold out for “weeks on end.”
The blog post goes on to say that major advances in technology often take time. “More and more, as people begin to understand the possibilities for virtual applications, word of mouth will grow, and sales will continue their upward trajectory,” HTC wrote.
The company backed up its statement with research from International Data Corporation, which shows that the HTC Vive took the lion’s share of VR headset revenue in the first quarter of 2018, at 35.7 percent. Samsung earned 18.9 percent, Sony took 12.6 percent, and Oculus grabbed 9 percent.
HTC also said the Vive Focus stand-alone headset has found traction in the Chinese market. Vive earned 33 percent market share in that country during the first quarter of 2018.
Maybe we’re both right
It’s good to see a company like HTC offer a measured response to an editorial. The blog post doesn’t directly address the points we made, however.
HTC’s claims are grounded in revenue share and market share, but the company doesn’t define how large the market is overall or publish the number of units it sold. The data provided by HTC can’t tell us how well the Vive or other HTC products have sold on an objective basis. It only tells us how well HTC is doing compared to other companies in the business.
We could both be right. Our conclusion that VR headset sales have dropped off doesn’t conflict with HTC’s claim that it makes the most revenue among its peers.
Virtual reality has a problem
Our editorial made its claim based on Amazon sales rankings. That’s not the best way to chart sales because, like HTC’s own claims, it’s not based on objective data. We don’t know how many units are being sold.
We relied upon Amazon’s rankings because the companies making VR headsets have kept quiet. HTC, Oculus, or Sony could easily disprove skeptics if they shared outstanding sales figures — but they instead choose to play coy, providing relative measures like market share, revenue share, or lifetime total sales.
It’s hard to believe that silence is due to success.
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