Virtual reality (VR) app usage jumped 6x on Christmas Day as consumers unwrapped new gadgets that let smartphone users try out the technology, according to findings from the VR ad platform OmniVirt made available to Mobile Marketer. Apple's App Store and Google Play had more than 55 million VR app downloads compared with 20 million in October, a study by the company said.
VRChat, a social chat-room app, has grown more popular since Christmas with 1 million downloads this month for a total of more than 2 million, according to Steamspy data. The social VR app has gotten more attention as social influencers on YouTube and Twitch have demonstrated its features, per RoadtoVR.
Post-Christmas usage stabilized to 2x pre-Christmas engagement, OmniVirt found. Growth this year may get a boost from the upcoming launches of Oculus Go and Google's standalone VR headset.
Marketers have been excited by the storytelling possibilities of VR for years, but better, more agile mobile technology is edging the space closer to widespread adoption in the home, as a strong holiday performance last year indicates. Smartphone apps are more likely to provide consumers with their first VR experience, with inexpensive headsets like Google Cardboard and 360-degree 'VR-lite' viewing experiences. True VR is more immersive, allowing people to move around and directly interact with objects in a virtual setting, but that kind of experience requires often costly and cumbersome hardware.
Electronics makers are steadily improving the features of VR headsets, however, with the idea that consumers and enterprise users will gradually adopt the technology. HTC, the Taiwanese consumer electronics company, this month showed off the latest version of its Vive headsets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Dan O'Brien, the general manager of Vive, said the company improved the visual resolution of its headsets for professionals in the automotive and medical industries. These VR developments, along with growing interest in its sister technology augmented reality, helped re-spark interest in CES this year from Silicon Valley stalwarts such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Bloomberg reported earlier this month, many of whom are dabbling in the VR space and want to drive excitement to their own products.
While mass adoption of VR has been slow, its experience with past consumer electronics products like the Android smartphone provides an idea of how new technologies gain greater acceptance, per Digital Trends. HTC's Vive and the Oculus Rift are the market leaders in VR headsets, according to a survey by VR gaming platform Steam. The HTC Vive had a market share of 49% in October, compared with 48% for Oculus. But Oculus gained share with a price drop to $400, according to AppInformers.