You can’t trust Steam’s monthly PC VR stats

Jamiroquai would be proud.

A Meta Quest 3 user swings her arms.

The world of virtual reality still feels as though it’s trying to prove itself worthy of everyone’s time and money. We’re big fans of VR, mostly for gaming, because it’s immersive. It feels unlike anything else you can do with technology at the moment. It’s still a little niche, partly because of the price, but it’s also more popular than some people realise.

One way we can measure VR popularity is by looking at Steam’s user figures. Every month, Valve publishes the Steam Hardware Survey to document stats on who’s running what. You can see old GPUs fall off the map as gamers upgrade and peek at what resolution people favour. There’s even a helpful breakdown of headsets, showing Meta Quest 2’s lead and how Meta Quest 3 is gaining traction. One quick look at March’s numbers, however, and a 0.15% decrease in Steam users with VR headsets could give you the wrong impression.

Specialist website UploadVR highlighted the dip, clarifying that there’s more to the story. Starting in March 2020, it appears as though there’s a steady decline in PC VR usage. This was when Valve changed the survey’s methodology to scan your SteamVR logs for the past month instead of connected headsets.” Sadly, there’s a major issue with drawing conclusions from this data: the abstract of percentages.

Without seeing a specific number of people, we’re comparing apples to oranges in methodologies. Even if we disregard anything before March 2020, using percentages isn’t accurate. VR users can appear to decrease as the number of PC users increases. If VR users don’t keep a one-for-one pace with the overall growth of Steam users, it gives the impression that the space is shrinking when, in actuality, it’s growing.

Pair this with the fact that China accounts for a big portion of users and it becomes problematic. “The most popular PC VR headsets and SteamVR games aren’t officially sold in China, and the number of Chinese users on Steam has gradually increased each year.” That’s a good thing, of course, but VR being less prominent there skews the figures.

Setting the record straight, UploadVR created a chart that removes China from the equation. The results show steady growth from 2020 and that VR isn’t going anywhere. While things look bad on the surface, they’re actually going pretty well with VR. Growth isn’t fast, but it’s consistently ticking up.