Virtual (and augmented) reality looks ready to take off after years of modest demand. The NPD Group reports unit sales of AR and VR hardware more than doubled in the US during the 2021 holiday season (between Thanksgiving week and Christmas), jumping 180% from 2020. Growth was not so fast for the year ‘only’ 163 percent, but there was clearly a lot of demand for immersive worlds.
Gross revenue also increased 153% during the holiday season and 137% for the year. This suggests that people were buying low-cost or discounted AR and VR devices.
NPD chief executive Ben Arnold was quick to warn that AR and VR “probably benefited” from the console shortage – if you couldn’t gift a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, a Meta Quest 2 could have served as a replacement. He noted that people were still looking for “unique” entertainment, however. We would add that the persistent pandemic may have encouraged people to stay indoors and try virtual experiences at a time when in-person equivalents such as gyms and nightclubs can be seen as too risky.
That doesn’t mean buyers are embracing the metaverse or similar noble concepts. However, it does suggest a brighter future for AR and VR. NPD already expects a 32% jump in revenue in the first half of 2022, and upcoming headphones like Meta’s Project Cambria could increase demand even further. Don’t be surprised if headphones are in vogue next holiday season.
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