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VR Headsets Sales Are Way, Way Down

Sales of virtual-reality headsets, consumers’ conduit to the metaverse, plummeted 40% between November 2022 and November 2023.

Photo of person wearing Oculus VR headset
Photo by Eren Li via Pexels

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Could the metaverse be approaching its heat-death?

Data compiled by research firm Circana for CNBC shows that sales of virtual-reality headsets, consumers’ conduit to the metaverse, plummeted 40% between November 2022 and November 2023. Although Meta has taken its foot off the gas slightly with its metaverse messaging, it’s still shoveling billions of dollars toward the platform — and Apple is preparing to sell its own VR headset next year. So Big Tech is all in, even if consumers aren’t.  

All Work And No Play

At the beginning of this year, Meta’s strategy for its metaverse products seemed to be simple: make them more fun for kids. To get more tweens and teens plugged in, the company lowered the age gate on its VR social platform Horizon Worlds in April. Unfortunately, Horizon Worlds didn’t prove to be as socially sticky as Facebook once was, and in September the company’s messaging changed: The metaverse wasn’t about amusement anymore, it was a serious place for serious professionals.

Now the results are in, and it seems neither strategy drove new consumers into the metaverse. So Zuck must have hit the gym hard and now he or someone on his team has cooked up some shiny new toys could inject some life back into the market, however short-lived:

  • Meta released its newest headset the Quest 3 in October, and Circana’s data showed a 42% spike in sales after the headset went on sale. Whether those are new consumers coming into the fold, or hardcore VR fans who want the latest headset, is unknown but key to Meta growing its audience for metaverse services.
  • The buzz is likely to grow again next year as Apple is due to start selling its Apple Vision Pro headset — although its price tag could put a slight damper on proceedings. After a bruising year for the American consumer, the number of people who are willing to shell out $3,500 for a VR headset could be ever-so-slightly lower than in normal times, if those exist. 

Taking a Pass: Meta recently struck up a relationship with a powerful ally. Last week Microsoft-owned Xbox announced its wildly popular Game Pass subscription service is now available on the Quest 3. Meta is lacking in must-have apps for its hardware, and Xbox has a big fat catalog of popular games. It’s a virtually perfect solution.