Has Half-Life: Alyx brought VR back from the dead?

(Image credit: Valve Corporation)

Virtual reality hardware sales have spiked impressively this year, driven by Oculus Quest, and also Valve’s Index VR headset – plus the revelation of Half-Life: Alyx in turn, which has led to the Index selling out as we’ve seen previously (and don’t forget, Oculus Quest will support the game too).

According to statistics provided by Nielsen’s SuperData XR Dimensions report, VR hardware sales are predicted to reach $2.1 billion (around £1.6 billion, AU$3 billion) by the close of 2019, which is up 31% compared to $1.6 billion (around £1.2 billion, AU$2.3 billion) last year.

As mentioned, a big part of this has been the Oculus Quest, which has made its mark as a convenient all-in-one solution with a display and performance that rivals the Oculus Rift.

Evidently it’s been popular with consumers, managing to attain ‘widespread’ adoption according to SuperData – at least in VR terms – and it probably doesn’t hurt that the Quest lets you play Rift games via the Oculus Link (hooking it up to your PC – and meaning you’ll be able to enjoy Alyx with it).

And as we’ve seen previously, Valve’s Index VR headset completely sold out in the US the week after the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx, the next instalment of the big franchise which you’ll only be able to enjoy via a VR headset.

As Wccftech (which spotted the Nielsen report) points out, if you try to order the Index from Valve in the US now, there’s a statement noting that due to ‘recent high demand’ you won’t get your headset until February 2020.

Now, Half-Life: Alyx is set to be released in March 2020, so that means if Valve has many more orders in the near future, there’s a prospect of folks who want to buy the Index not being able to get one in time before Alyx hits the shelves.

Safe side?

So you have been warned: if you want to play Alyx with Valve’s Index, it might be on the safe side to order your VR headset without delay (because given this news, there may be another rush of orders as we saw after the announcement of Valve’s next instalment of Half-Life).

The scarcity of Valve’s Index is such that it has led to the predictable situation where third-party sellers are trying to flog hardware with massively jacked up prices. For example if you look on Amazon.com at the time of writing, the retail giant is sold out of its own stock (naturally), but sellers on Amazon’s Marketplace are attempting to get $1,990 (around £1,490, AU$2,890) for the headset (which is twice the standard asking price for the full Index kit).

It’s a similar story in the UK, where on Steam, the Valve Index is completely sold out (and that’s every bundle, and indeed the standalone controllers) – except in this region, there’s not even any option to pre-order right now.

It would seem, then, that a combination of popular Oculus hardware and the revelation of Half-Life: Alyx – which is playable on a number of VR headsets including the Oculus Quest – has really helped lift the sales of VR kit throughout 2019.

And potentially it points the way to a seriously bumper 2020 for the world of virtual reality – perhaps even a breakout year, because as we’ve already argued, Half-Life: Alyx is indeed likely to make or break VR gaming next year.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).