Why is Google Cardboard Still Dominating the VR HMD Sales

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Virtual Reality industry is funny. There’s a lot of hype and excitement, yet real case studies that have been revealed and swept the nation haven’t arrived. There has not been a “killer app” and not everyone own a VR headset yet.

SuperData VR headsets research

SuperData VR headsets research

But on another hand, the sales numbers of the virtual reality devices are increasing. Superdata came out with stats for 2016. While sales of hi-tech power duo HTC Vive and Oculus Rift were ok, the big winner among the group is Samsung Gear VR. Google Daydream haven’t hit the markets yet and so the sales numbers aren’t exactly showing in where it’s going to be situated next year.  

Also, Playstation VR had a great performance in sales. The results even surprised the company itself. By now they already have about million PSVR devices in households.

Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Global CEO, Andrew House said that the company has managed to sell 915,000 units in 4 months since official release.

Right off the bat, Sony did actually have quite a bit of advantage that played in their favor. For instance, the price difference from HTC and Oculus is substantial, but there are two other factors as well.

PlayStation VR impressed Sony with its sales results

PlayStation VR impressed Sony with its sales results


One, PlayStation VR didn’t need an upgrade of all the other hardware. HTC and Oculus required a powerful computer and even a bigger space if you wanted to use room scale feature. With PSVR you only had to connect with the console which has already been present in the consumer households for years.

Secondly, HTC and VIve had sat around without having a decent content to play with. The units were mostly bought by developers, 3D artists and pioneers and tech enthusiasts. Sony came prepared. Right after the release, they had aspected of games which were actually fun to play.

But let’s look at the most selling VR headset which hasn’t been mentioned yet – Google Cardboard. Google announced that they have shipped more than 10 million headsets. In fact at the start of the year 2016 Stephanie Llamas, SuperData’s director of research and insights offered the following predictions:


Google Cardboard: 84,400,000

Samsung Gear VR: 2,316,632

PlayStation VR: 745,434

HTC Vive: 450,083

Oculus Rift: 355,088

Google Daydream: 261,083


Here’s how cheap mobile headsets sales compares to their more advanced counterparts.

Google Cardboard sales vs. other HMDs (SuperData Research)

Google Cardboard sales vs. other HMDs (SuperData Research)

And this makes a lot of sense. Mobile is still the easiest way to adapt and the fact that you can experience virtual reality with a cardboard device is fascinating. If Google sold 10 millions, don’t forget about the Chinese market as well. Together with them there are supposed to be around 88 millions of VR cardboard headsets sold in 2016.


Leaders and VR enthusiasts can be quite dismissive to the cardboard or plastic headsets can be bought for around $15 a piece.

Not everyone likes Google Cardboard

Not everyone likes Google Cardboard


But if you look at it from different perspective, the Google Cardboard and it’s alternatives is the easiest low-barrier entry to the immersive environment. While it’s technically not virtual environment it still gives a viewer the sense of presence in the virtual world.


Collectively we are forgetting one thing. We are all trying to push VR/AR/MR into the mainstream and getting in acknowledged and validated. If 360-degree videos shot with spherical cameras are doing a good job, we should be satisfied with it.


Imagine Google Cardboard being a gateway drug to higher-level immersive technologies.


And the second reasons for the rise of low-cost VR headsets is marketing. Creative agencies caught the sniff of blood of the VR hype and they can’t fall behind on the trend. VR marketing is already established at the top agencies.


The simple giveaway of custom branded VR cardboard headset together with an quality 360 content app that can be launched from a smartphone is really simple way to show people something new.


Innovativity is the one thing that will let your company differentiate from the crowd. Putting your brand colors on a physical object that is going to be associated with viewers first immersive experience can leave a lasting impact.


VR marketing campaign with VR cardboard goggles is easy to execute and if you’re doubtful about how 360-degree video is performing, check out the Google’s experiment with Columbia sportswear or Sarah Hill’s case study comparison here.

360-degree vs Flat video Study by Susan Hill from StoryUp

360-degree vs Flat video Study by Susan Hill from StoryUp


Need help with VR marketing campaigns? Let’s connect on twitter at @dgajsek.


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