Taiwanese electronics manufacturer HTC used its position as a VR headset maker to shoot back at the industry’s critics on Thursday. The resulting story HTC tells is an interesting one, both because it makes new claims about VR revenue figures and because any brags from beleaguered HTC about revenue drip with irony by default.
The Thursday blog post from its USA arm, titled “Think VR is dying? It’s just getting started,” cites reports about declining VR sales figures at sellers like Amazon. Rather than dispute a rapid decline in VR headset sales at Amazon or clarify whether other stores’ and chains’ sales figures tell a different story, HTC’s blog post offers its own simple explanation: inventory issues.
“VIVE has paced at its highest sales velocity of all time, for weeks on end, and we sold out,” the post reads. “For a consumer electronic product in its third calendar year, this continued trajectory is nearly unheard of.”
This HTC statement doesn’t dispute the allegation that sales are declining, however, nor does it allege that the company would sell more hardware if its production facilities kept up with demand. (Amazon US is currently sold out of standard Vive VR bundles.)
Instead of offering a rosier picture of VR sales, the HTC blog post points to a report by the International Data Corporation about the state of augmented and virtual reality hardware, which claims that HTC Vive controlled 35.7 percent of virtual reality-related revenue in Q1 2018. Additionally, the report claims that the standalone HTC Vive Focus headset, which is currently only available in China, controls 33.1 percent of that nation’s standalone VR sales. The number-two standalone VR product in China, made by Pico, also runs HTC’s “ViveWave” standalone-VR software platform.
Those are curious bragging points for HTC to pick out, however, especially in light of the company’s inability to grow its general revenue outlook. HTC’s own reports confirm a continued rollercoaster drop in total company revenue between January and June of this year—down 49.3 percent, to $15.6 billion, from the same period in 2017. Its June picture, in particular, is staggering, with the company seeing one-month revenue drop 67.6 percent year-over-year. (These figures do not appear to separate VR revenue from the rest of HTC’s portfolio.)
Thus, the HTC blog post and its incomplete data picture don’t add up to very good news for VR headset sales. Unless HTC is able to confirm an uptick in Q1 2018 VR sales, then that 35.7 percent figure for the whole sector’s revenue in that period means things are bad for HTC—and for every other player listed. In that same Q1 2018 period, Samsung came in second place for total worldwide revenue share at 18.9 percent, followed by Sony at 12.6 percent and Oculus at 9 percent.
HTC used the blog post to emphasize its shift to enterprise and entertainment-center VR by way of its pricier Vive Pro headset. “These numbers don’t hit consumer forecasts,” the blog post suggests. Additionally, the company suggested general number declines are due to “units that were largely used as promotional devices for phone launches,” such as Samsung GearVR and Google Daydream, which the IDC report suggests is seriously declining.
“As people begin to understand the possibilities for virtual applications, word of mouth will grow, and sales will continue their upward trajectory,” HTC suggests in the article. However, neither the ViveWave platform nor the Vive Pro hardware do much beyond augment existing games and apps, and HTC has struggled to introduce compelling new software for these systems—or suggest paths to affordable and lag-free boosts in screen quality and wireless technologies. (A promised, official wireless Vive adapter has yet to receive a release date or a price, let alone substantive public demos to confirm that it will deliver quality, lag-free VR performance.)