Declining VR headset sales could spell bad news for the metaverse


Posts: 8,609   +107
Staff member
In a nutshell: With Facebook changing its corporate name to Meta and so much focus being placed on the future of virtual reality, one might imagine that more people bought VR headsets this year. The worrying reality for the social media giant is that the opposite happened: shipments slumped more than 12% year-over-year in 2022.

Despite facing pushback from consumers and industry figures, Meta continues to double down on its metaverse ambitions. Reality Labs, the division responsible for this unit, has lost around $16 billion since the start of last year, all while Facebook's net income falls as advertisers reel in their spending in these times of economic turmoil.

But could Mark Zuckerberg's obsessive belief in the metaverse be his downfall? Things aren't looking good. A shared virtual reality world requires users to own VR headsets, of course, but their sales have fallen 2% (YoY) in the US this year to $1.1 billion. It's even worse news on the global scale, where shipments are down 12% YoY to 9.6 million, according to data shared with CNBC by research firm NPD Group.

The figures are unlikely to be a concern for Zuckerberg. The CEO says that investment in the metaverse today might not reap any rewards for another decade, at which point the virtual reality platform could potentially start earning hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars.

Few people share Zuck's faith that the VR space will become the new internet, though. One analyst recently predicted that most metaverse business projects will have shuttered by 2025. Elsewhere, a survey of almost 10,000 teens earlier this year showed half were uninterested in the metaverse, and we've even heard of some Meta staff who share this skepticism.

Then there's John Carmack. The legendary programmer, who had been at Facebook/Meta since it acquired Oculus in 2014, expressed disappointment in the metaverse's progress in October. He left the company this month, calling Meta inefficient, constantly self-sabotaging, and ill-prepared for the inevitable competition that will eventually arrive.

But it's not all bad news for Meta. Like so many industries, VR headsets saw a boom in sales last year—revenue in the US doubled from about $530 million in 2020, according to NPD—thanks partially to all the promotions and the pandemic, so a decline isn't totally unexpected. And Meta's Oculus Quest 2 continues to dominate the Steam Survey with a nearly 50% user share. Whether that will placate nervous Meta shareholders is another matter.

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Posts: 10   +21
According to people around me, the demographics of Facebook is "growing along": It really has become a platform for "the elderly". She's 12 years younger than me and tells me that she herself has stopped using it and many around her, younger than her, think of Facebook as "their parent's platform".

Combine this with 3D headsets and I don't see the metaverse become a "thing": Elderly people with 3D headsets is like 50+ people dancing in nightclubs; certainly worth a try, but all too often it feels ridiculous...


Posts: 522   +2,357
VR has only been a niche fad, that comes and goes every other decade.
Every time it returns, it improves, but it's still not ready for mainstream.
Maybe the next time this fad returns, it will have more mainstream appeal.


Posts: 669   +929
The concept of 'metaverse' is more imagination than what technology can deliver at the moment. VR at Facebook/Meta was always going to die a slow death, where shareholders have no patience for any large investments that don't deliver instant success. Large corporations are a poor home for true innovation.

VR on the other hand, seems to occupy a niche but persistent space in the gaming community, particularly on the Steam and Playstation networks - these guys can give it room and time to find its place, what works and what doesn't.. as long as it brings in some small income.

Expect Playstation VR2 to do very well next holiday, but expect Meta to slowly pretend they were never bothered about it in the first place.


Posts: 470   +1,046
No compelling new hardware leads to a drop in sales. A high resolution, 120Hz, OLED set with good lenses (no fresnel halos), field of view, and a decent price would respark some interest.

Q Wales

Posts: 64   +15
No one has mentioned the elephant in the room,, that there's just not one single great bit of new software everyone wants to use. Make the game\app and they will come. I would suggest creating a competitive fps game that physically improves the user, this would be a game changer. You may have to add some warnings to the sales blurb to cover yourselves for the people who push themselves too far but it would be, in general, a positive thing for all, especially us US & UK fatties.