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Sony's PlayStation VR Boosts Virtual Reality Shipments in Japan

Console-maker’s success blazes the trail for future devices

Virtual reality (VR) represents the leading edge of new consumer technology. But for companies interested in VR tech, the challenge has been to create a compelling “use case” to catalyze rapid adoption of the devices. In Japan, the answer to this question has been to integrate October 2016 launch of its highly anticipated PlayStation VR platform.

An analysis of Q4 2016 VR headset shipment share in Japan by brand, conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), highlights Sony’s early advantage. VR headsets from the company accounted for more than 90% of all headset shipments in the country at the end of 2016.

Virtual Reality Headset Shipment Share in Japan, by Brand, Q4 2016 (% of total)

Sony has jumped to an early lead in Japan, even though other VR devices like Facebook’s Oculus and HTC’s Vive made it to market earlier. But it’s no surprise that a Japan-based company with close links to the video game console sector would pioneer one of the first widely popular VR products.

Earlier research has underscored the importance of console-based gaming among consumers in Japan.

Video Game Revenues in Select Countries, by Device, 2016 (billions and % of total)

In a September 2016 study of video game revenues in five markets conducted by Newzoo, Japan had the highest revenues for console-based games of any country. Newzoo estimated that console video game systems, such as the Sony PlayStation, accounted for 38% of Japan’s video game market, or $4.70 billion.

There are plenty of predictions about how VR applications might develop in the future, including their potential application in the retail and travel sectors. But as the example of Sony in Japan illustrates, it may be the video game industry that ends up pioneering the first truly successful consumer VR device.

Jeremy Kressmann

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