Popularity of Sony’s PlayStation VR Surprises Even the Company

Sony’s internal goal was to sell one million of the headsets in its first six months, by mid-April. The company will almost certainly surpass that forecast. “You literally have people lining up outside stores when they know stock is being replenished,” said Mr. House, describing the scene in Japan, one of the largest games markets.

Mr. House said the supply of PlayStation VR headsets will improve by April. By fall, Sony expects to begin selling them in Latin America.

The sales figure is a positive sign for virtual reality and probably establishes Sony as the leader in the premium side of the market — headsets connected to PCs and game consoles that provide more immersive experiences than are currently possible through inexpensive headsets that use smartphones for visuals.

Sony’s primary competitors, Oculus from Facebook and HTC, have not disclosed sales of their premium headsets. One research firm, SuperData Research, estimates there were 243,000 Oculus Rift headsets and 420,000 HTC Vive headsets sold by the end of last year.

In contrast, during its first three months on the market in 2007, Apple sold nearly 1.4 million iPhones; a feat now considered among the most successful technology products of all time.

The current generation of virtual reality headsets arrived on the market last year with a flurry of hype. Demonstrations thrilled people throughout the industry — many have been waiting for virtual reality to jump out of the pages of science fiction. Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014 set off a wave of investment in the sector.

In recent months, a more sober tone has descended over virtual reality. Oculus executives have sought to shift the conversation from first-year sales to the technology’s long-term potential. During a recent court appearance, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said the company would probably need to invest more than $3 billion over a decade to reach an…

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