VR on Linux: A Growing Market?

Here’s another look at the survey conducted back in April 2021 – this time we will check the answers from all respondents regarding VR on Linux.

First, let’s have a look at how widespread is VR among the respondents:

VR on Linux: trial and ownership

As expected, the majority of users have actually never tried VR. However, the number of owners of PC VR equipment is much higher than I had anticipated. More than 13% is a huge number, relative to the usual market of VR as we know currently. As usual the same disclaimer apply as per the previous survey analysis (this sample is potentially not representative of Linux gamers at large, etc…) but there are still many things to learn from it.

Now, we had a series of statements related to the current and future state of VR, such as:

  • VR is too expensive and is a niche within a niche
  • VR is the future of gaming
  • VR is interesting, but the technology is still immature
  • VR is exciting tech-wise, but software is lacking
  • VR is helpful to push hardware forward

Let’s see what are the overall reactions to such statements:

VR on Linux: perception

A few observations:

  • Respondents are quite divided on whether or not VR is the future of gaming. It’s very polarizing. More on this a little later.
  • Other statements seem closer to reaching a majority consensus: VR is seens as expensive, still immature, and software is somewhat lacking.
  • However, most people agree that no matter where VR is going, VR is helpful to push hardware forward – which makes sense since VR is typically even more demanding than driving games at 4K 60 FPS: because of 2 screens and very high framerates involved.

VR Device Ownership and Perception

Now, what if we check only the respondents who own a PC VR device vs those who don’t? Would their answers differ?

VR on Linux: perception for non-VR owners
VR on Linux: perception for VR owners

There are quite a few differences:

  • While the impression that VR is too expensive is high among VR hardware owners, it’s less marked among them (57% vs 80% for non-owners).
  • A majority of VR hardware owners think that VR is the future of gaming (61% vs 38%)

However, they mostly agree on:

  • the fact that VR as a tech is still immature.
  • VR is pushing hardware forward
  • VR is exciting but software is lacking

I have also looked at the differences between respondents:

  • who have never tried VR
  • who have tried VR once but do not own equipment
  • current owners

And it’s very clear that the perception that “VR is the future of gaming” goes progressively up as you move from “never tried” (35%) to “non-owners trialists” (43%) to “vr hardware owners” (61%). But is that a causal relationship? It may look this way from the data, but that’s not enough to confirm. You could easily imagine that the ones who either try or buy VR equipment are pre-disposed in thinking this way about VR (otherwise they would not even try it!) so it’s entirely possible that usage does not necessarily cause a perception shift.

I can at least talk from experience here. I do not own VR equipment but I have tried VR on multiple occasions (in trade shows, in arcades, and in more quiet environments too). Nothing that I saw then has convinced me to spend 4 figures bills, so far. I haven’t tried Alyx yet, so this may well be a very convincing game if I ever do. But at this stage I’m still in the camp where I am not really sure if VR is the future of gaming – instead of just being ONE of the many future options.

Among the Boiling Steam editors, we can also observe a variety of opinions about VR:

  • Patola and Podiki are both fully convinced Valve Index users, and consider VR great (even on a min specs machine!) and a major new way to do gaming.
  • Cow_killer purchased an Index at about the same time as Podiki, and while he was enthusiastic at first, his interest cooled off a little since then.
  • And as stated above, I have tried VR many times before but I was never convinced enough to justify buying hardware for it.

We would be interested to hear more from you on this topic. Please comment at the end of this article if you have any experience (positive or negative) about using VR for gaming.

Intent to purchase VR equipment

Now let’s look at the non-VR owners and whether or not they intend to purchase VR equipment within a year or not:

VR on Linux: intent to purchase for non-vr hardware owners

It’s not very surprising that the large majority has no such intent. But still, about 15.8% say they would be somewhat likely or very likely to purchase such VR equipment. Even if only half of those actually pulls the trigger, that’s still something like a 8% growth year on year. Not very fast, but still healthy in terms of market development. It’s consistent with what we have been observing so far with VR: sales increase year after year, but there’s no explosion – nothing like how smartphones took off, if we were to take a benchmark.

I think this all says that VR is potentially great, but for numerous reasons, it’s not yet ready to go full mainstream. Half Life: Alyx may be the exception that proves the rule: pretty much everyone who played it considered it a game-changer, but there’s only one game like that, and this is from Valve after spending years experimenting with what VR could bring. Maybe every game, ten years from now, will be as good or better than Alyx in VR, but until more extraordinary titles come out, adoption will be on a slow pace.

VR’s adoption is also slowed down by availability of hardware, and its price. Ultimate it’s the software that matters the most, but even if software is there, now matter how good it is, a 1000 USD price point is going to make potential buyers think twice.


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VR owners vs non-VR owners

I was also checking if there were some clear differences in terms of behavior or even demographics between VR equipment owners and those who did not own any.

Turns out there were not as many as I thought there would. I expected VR owners to be younger than the rest of the sample, but it was not really that much of a difference. I expected they could be using AMD more since AMD has had reprojection support for a while on Linux, but once again it was about the same between both groups.

There was, however, a key factor that was clearly standing out between these 2 segments. The usage of Dual-Booting:

  • 28.9 % of PC VR equipment owners keep a Windows partition for games that do not work on Linux.
  • Only 17.8% do among non-owners.

This is also something we could pick up among the free text comments, such as the following ones:

Would have liked a bit more in the VR section, especially on Linux + VR and a question about why I keep windows around. For me, it is purely because of VR – and it’s the last sticking point with getting rid of windows.

I dual boot mostly because of VR. My experience with VR on linux was pretty bad (frequent crashes and freezes). My headset (Valve Index) is supported but the software (drivers and SteamVR) isn’t good enough yet.

For pancake games, Linux’ situation has improved a lot since the release of Proton (while EAC and the like remain a major hurdle for compatibility), but when it comes to VR there seems still to be a lot of tweaking needed to make things work properly – the Windows experience is certainly much better to this day. On that topic, if you are interested in VR and how things work on Linux, you can check out Patola’s excellent feature about the State of VR on Linux in 2021.

What’s next for the Survey ?

We are still not done with the survey results. Next, we will have a quick review of the gamepads used by Linux gamers, and which ones they like the most! In the meantime you can check out the previous articles related to the survey, in case you missed anything!


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Daniel

VR is currently a niche, and VR solutions are somewhat like racing peripherals (wheels, cockpits, etc). There is a spectrum of buy-in for the sake of performance, immersion, comfort, and (in)convenience. While VR tech holds broader usability/potential than racing peripherals (e.g. other than as a temporary experiment, no one sane would use a racing wheel as their daily go-to control interface for FPS games), I still feel like the tech generally isn’t there, both in terms of price and ergonomics, in order to move VR from enthusiast novelty to mass adoption. The higher quality solutions are still relatively expensive, and… Read more »

frostworx

I bought the HTC Vive when it came out and switched to the Index when it came out. I have very many VR games, and most of those I tried do work ootb without any problems _(only using linux)_. Generally VR gaming is really great, but imho linux support does really require some urgent fixes and improvements – it kind of feels like development halted. Tbh I also haven’t played very much VR within the last few months. Reasons might be summer is too warm for vr gaming not enough time/too busy with programming 🙂 not enough big/AAA new vr… Read more »

frostworx

No, I never used Windows in my life and until now exclusively use linux for everything _(fun fact: I installed a win10 kvm with gpu-passthrough just a few days ago, to test some vr related stuff which does not work under linux – like mothervr, helixvision, maybe librevive. So my linux system uses the RX 6900 XT with the Valve Index and the VM gets the GeForce GTX 1650 _(single slot)_ with my old HTC Vive)_