Samsung's mobile VR headset shipped 4.51 million units in 2016
Samsung's Gear VR headset has become the leading virtual reality headset after shipping more units than its main rivals combined.
The mobile VR device shipped 4.51 million units worldwide last year, per MCV. That figure far outstrips high-end competitors PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift, which shipped a combined total of 1.42m units in 2016.
Breaking the numbers down further, PlayStation VR came in second place, shipping 750,000 units, while HTC Vive shipped 420,000. Oculus Rift, meanwhile, only shipped 250,000.
Those numbers are actually pretty impressive for Sony. The console-based VR system only launched in October, so 750,000 units isn't anything to sniff at. Likewise, HTC Vive only launched in April, so doesn't have a full year on the shelves. It's an extremely expensive high-end VR system too, but its price doesn't seem to have deterred buyers.
Oculus seems to have fared worst. After launching in March with years of hype behind it, the relatively meagre numbers don't seem to pay back Facebook's investment in the company. The brand could also have been damaged by founder Palmer Luckey's involvement in a pro-Trump "shit-posting" campaign, and the recent $500 million (£391 million) loss in court over using code developed by gaming firm ZeniMax without permission.
The reason for Samsung's success is easy to identify, though. Not only has it been on shelves longer, with the first version released in November 2015, it's cheaper and more accessible.
"The low barrier to entry for mobile gave Samsung an edge over its other high-end competitors before the Google Daydream View came out," said analytics firm SuperData, whose report revealed the figures. "After giving away hundreds of thousands of headsets with S7 pre-orders, [Samsung was] able to get devices into the hands of consumers at a critical time."
Matters aren't quite so rosy for Google Pixel yet, but it seems only a matter of time until Samsung Gear has serious competition. "Google's new headset has been slow out the gate, coming out late last year and compatible with only the Google Pixel," SuperData said. "However, as more phones become compatible this year it will be stiff competition for Samsung, especially since the Daydream View is $20 cheaper than the Gear VR."
Sony has reason to be pleased too. The report adds that "Sony's headset flew off shelves, selling out virtually everywhere within a few days," and that the only reason it hasn't sold more yet is because "the company's lack of fulfilment is an indication of a cautious start".
The report also looked at VR usage statistics. It found that gamessurprisingly only make up 44 per cent of the market, and that users prefer shorter experiences. The average time spent using a headset was a tiny seven minutes for mobile, and twelve minutes on home VR systems. However, players kept coming back for more.
"While play sessions were short - roughly ten minutes - they were engaging enough to keep players coming back often," SuperData explained. "Users experienced VR more than once a day on average, with mobile VR users in particular reaching for their headset almost 50 times a month."
It's also worth noting that the figures for units shipped are just that - how many pieces of hardware were supplied to retailers, rather than an accurate reflection of sell-through to customers. Still, 4.5 million units in the wild is an impressive figure, and implies that the future of VR may in fact be mobile.