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Most Gamers Have No Clue What an Oculus Rift Is

It helps if you make a lot of money.
Image: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

When you spend your days writing about the goings on of the video game industry, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing that most people are aware of technology like virtual reality and that they'll understand your snarky quips about mimes using the Oculus Rift. But as Nielsen's 360 Gaming Report for 2016 shows, that's just not the case. In fact, according to their findings, the majority of gamers haven't heard about the major VR headsets that have launched or will launch later this year.


Based on a sampling of over 2,000 U.S. teens and adults older than age 13 who play video games, only 37 percent of U.S. gamers have even heard of any of the eight virtual reality headsets covered in the report. As expected, the Oculus Rift is the best-known one, but even then, only 22 percent of gamers know about it. Somewhat embarrassingly, the Google Cardboard (which looks more or less exactly like it sounds), pulls in second place with 18 percent. And as for the HTC Vive, my personal favorite and the one where we're seeing some of the most fascinating technology to come out of virtual reality? Only 6 percent have heard of it. That's less of a revolution and more of a minor protest.

Image: Nielsen

So who's actually interested in it? The report states that console and mobile gamers are the ones who are most eager to try it out, with PC gamers pulling in only a modest 38 percent. Gamers interested in VR also tend to be well-off millennial males who make an average of $62,870 a year and spend close to 20 bucks a month on games. Teens, apparently, don't give a damn, as only 15 percent of them expressed knowledge of the tech.

Image: Nielsen

Nielsen's report is new, but the data might already be out of date since many of the big virtual reality headsets are just now becoming available. Indeed, in the report itself, the expected release dates for each system are only marked in nebulous quarters, whereas we know that the HTC Vive officially released just last week, the Oculus Rift released at the end of March, and PlayStation VR (which 14 percent of gamers have reportedly heard of) won't even be out until October.

We are, in other words, currently riding the crest of the wave. At this very moment, you can trot over to the Steam Store and see the words "VR IS HERE" slathered on a home page banner, and it's a safe bet that at least some of the 12.4 million players using Steam today will see it. Virtual reality is so new, in fact, that it didn't even warrant a single mention in Nielsen's 360 Gaming Report from last year, whereas now it commands several pages of Nielsen's 35 page report. With actual devices getting in players' hands and with word of mouth spreading knowledge of the tech even farther, the numbers may look much different next year.