Since Microsoft announced its HoloLens augmented reality headset at January 2015 Windows event, the device has been the clear leader in terms of online traffic and consumer interest. The HoloLens section of Microsoft.com received over 50 million visits in 2015, according to global market intelligence company SimilarWeb. That topped the over 30 million visits Facebook’s Oculus.com received in 2015, which led the more crowded virtual reality market.
“In terms of search, from January to December 2015 HoloLens related search terms accounted for 0.67% of Microsoft’s worldwide search traffic, meaning 29.6 million visits to Microsoft.com came from people looking for HoloLens,” says Moshe Alexenberg, director of digital insights at SimilarWeb.
It’s worth noting that 16 million of those HoloLens visits came in January 2015 after the CES announcement, and interest had waned by November 2015 with only 753,000 visits to the site. Microsoft (MSFT) is selling HoloLens directly to enterprise companies this year; a consumer launch has not been set. The company previewed gaming functionality, including a Minecraft HoloLens game, at the E3 video game trade show in Los Angeles last June.
Alexenberg says Oculus is winning the keyword marketing battle, which is an excellent measure of brand awareness in any sector. SimilarWeb analysis found that Oculus.com received 51.6% of its traffic from search, which amounted to 15.9 million search visits. HTCVive.com garnered 52.5% of its 2015 traffic from search, which accounted for only about 70,000 visits.
Since Sony PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR don’t have separate dedicated virtual reality websites, SimilarWeb examined virtual reality related searches that led to Samsung.com and PlayStation.com. For Samsung, 0.91% of worldwide search came from virtual reality search terms, which led to over 4.3 million visits, Alexenberg says. For PlayStation, 0.34% of worldwide search came from virtual reality search terms, which amounted to 540,000 visits.
“By these metrics, Oculus is winning on search, followed by Samsung, PlayStation, and HTC in distant fourth,” Alexenberg says.
Oculus also was a clear winner at CES 2016, even after announcing a higher-than-anticipated $600 price point for the Rift Consumer Edition. Oculus.com received a huge surge in traffic on Jan. 6, receiving over 1.9 million visits, Alexenberg says. That’s a 224% increase from Jan. 5 traffic, and a 1,363% increase from Dec. 30 2015, the previous Wednesday. The consumer edition ships March 24.
“It is early days in 2016, but the pricing of a more expensive device is not putting consumers off,” Alexenberg says.
Some of this virtual reality traffic is coming from the adult entertainment industry, which has always been an early adopter of new technology.
“We expect porn to play a big part in both high-end and cheaper VR devices,” Alexenberg says. “We can look at Oculus and see that in 2015, 2.7% of their referral traffic came from porn sites, and for Homido, 47% of their referral traffic came from porn. If porn sites are sending traffic to VR sites, they clearly see VR as a new platform for their content.”
Even with the Google Cardboard, Alexenberg says porn sites are using the low price to their advantage. BaDoink.com offers a free Cardboard to visitors who sign up; that page received 304,000 visits in 2015.
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Google’s Cardboard, which can be made for free or purchased from $5 to $25, was the most searched for virtual reality platform on Amazon, Newegg, Ali Express, and eBay, according to SimilarWeb.
“In 2015, the price for Cardboard was best known, and Cardboard devices were even given away for free, which is likely why people searched for them the most,” Alexenberg says. “They are also compatible with many smartphones, so users already own half the equipment necessary.”
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This year will see expanded Cardboard capabilities with the introduction of the Qualcomm 820 chip, which will introduce head tracking capabilities for select smartphones. That’s important for many apps, but especially video games.
“Next to porn, gaming will be a huge platform for VR and is likely to be the next big frontier,” Alexenberg says. “Looking at Oculus’ referral traffic, we see that 20% of their 2015 desktop referrals came from sites categorized as gaming. Furthermore, when we look at the audience interest of Oculus.com visitors, SimilarWeb data shows that 12.5% of visitors also visited gaming sites in the same browsing session.”