Holiday Season Drives 6x Lift in VR App Usage

Jan 23, 2018

This past holiday season saw huge gains in sales and not just in retail goods. Consumers used their growing disposable income to test out new digital experiences, enabling the App Store to hit a record $300 million in sales. One digital app experience sticks out: virtual reality. VR app usage spiked over the 2017 holidays. OmniVirt, a 360° VR advertising platform, saw a 6x lift in VR app usage on Christmas day for apps that use OmniVirt’s ad network to monetize their content. New users are exploring VR apps as well. VRChat, a social chat-room app, has gone viral since Christmas, seeing 1.2 million fresh downloads, up from just 300,000.

As VR steadily shifts from being a niche product to one that is mainstream, this spike doesn’t come as a surprise. In fact, one in four millennials put VR gadgets at the top of their holiday wish lists this year, eyeing items like Google’s Daydream headset. The rise of VR usage might be attributed to families and friends sharing fun experiences with new gifts together during the holiday season (think grandparents trying an Oculus Rift or a Google Daydream headset before Christmas dinner) and the ever-increasing amount of high-quality VR content on the market. Last year witnessed a similar spike in December as well, proving that the holiday magic never runs its course as people receive headsets and new phones as gifts.

Play saw over 55 million VR app downloads. Compare that to October, where the platforms saw less than 20 million. Developers are taking note of this seasonal trend, with some even choosing to develop Christmas-specific experiences. Merry Snowballs, a free VR game accessible on Google Play, places players on a snowy, decorated residential street where they launch and dodge snowballs, at war with animated neighborhood kids and holiday figures. When it’s just too cold outside to do the real thing, virtual snowballs hit the spot (literally).

What happens to usage after Christmas? Post-Christmas growth in usage stabilized to 2x pre-Christmas engagement, according to OmniVirt’s analytics. However, experts predict faster growth over the course of 2018, especially with the upcoming launches of Oculus Go and Google’s standalone headset. But even amidst increasing usage growth, VR developers look to ensure sustainability by looking into methods to monetize their content, like in-app VR advertising. And rather than wait for next Christmas’ usage lift, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.