Half Life: Alyx could have been the “killer app” that VR needed for a booming mainstream adoption – much like the original Halo was the sales point for many an Xbox system back in the days. However, it seems that this isn’t the case – and likely won’t ever be. Half Life: Alyx is set in one of gaming’s most iconic franchises; for all accounts, it’s an incredibly acclaimed game, featuring a 93 aggregate review score on Metacritic, and a mightily impressive 9.1 in user reviews. However, as it stands, the game was not unlike a popping balloon: it peaked at 16,459 concurrent players on the day of release, and has since seemingly settled in a 3,000 average concurrent player count. This speaks nothing of the game’s quality, as we’ve seen: it speaks to the adoption of VR.
As we’ve seen, PC hardware sales have seen an increase motivated by the “quarantine bubble” many countries across the world are now experiencing. And while PC hardware sales have increased, they have done so in products that are mostly geared towards reducing social distancing. The asking price for a new VR headset, alongside limited usage scenarios; low adoption amongst friends and relatives of would-be-purchasers of the tech; and the absence of a developed ecosystem; all seem to concurrently lead to there not being a relevant sales increase. No reports have surfaced on the increased sales rate of VR headsets since the quarantine has been enacted in many countries across the globe.
It seems that there still is a long way to go for VR to become mainstream: whether a new generation of cheaper products, the democratization of wireless adapter solutions, cross-platform support for your smartphone, PC and console… Whatever the solution for that particular equation is (and the solution will likely eventually be found), it seems that Half Life: Alyx wasn’t the killer app to tip the scales. Which is a shame. But until that killer app, or killer conjunction of variables, surfaces, you can try to play Half Life: Alyx without a VR headset via some mods that have already been released for the game. It’s not the same, obviously; and it’s not Half Life 3. But it’s something. It’s something.