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Half-Life: Alyx is VR’s Killer App But Most Gamers Won’t Play It

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
Thomas Bardwell
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
  • A peak of 43,000 people played Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx on Steam yesterday.
  • Over six times more watched on Twitch as concurrent viewership passed 300,000.
  • VR hardware requirements represent a prohibitive barrier to entry, excluding many fans of the franchise.

Valve’s highly-anticipated Half-Life: Alyx launched yesterday. The VR exclusive has already amassed an impressive number of accolades from players and critics alike, including a slew of perfect scores.

Many are calling it VR’s ‘killer app,’ marking a pivotal moment in VR gaming history as a title with the pedigree to catapult the niche technology into the mainstream.

Half-Life: Alyx – A Huge Success

The numbers signal nothing short of a successful launch for a VR title. According to the Steam tracker website, SteamDB, Half-Life: Alyx recorded a peak of nearly 43,000 concurrent players yesterday  (42,858 to be precise).

VR Hardware Restrictions Dampen Half-Life: Alyx Launch Success
Source: SteamDB

As of writing, there are currently 10,135 players in-game. The number has naturally lowered as US-based players catch some sleep. It’s likely to rise again as the day progresses.

By comparison, VR’s most popular title to date, rhythm game Beat Saber, boasts an all-time player peak of 4,472 , set in January of this year.

Source: SteamDB

Even beyond the VR landscape, Half-Life: Alyx is doing very well. Yesterday, it featured in the top 25 games on Steam with the most concurrent players .

VR Hardware Remains A Prohibitive Barrier

While these are undoubtedly impressive figures for a virtual reality title, the sheen wears off somewhat when we consider them alongside Twitch viewership.

Over 300,00 concurrent viewers tuned in to watch streamers play Half-Life: Alyx live yesterday. Seeing viewer counts trump those of active players is nothing new, but the scope of the divide stands out.

The concurrent player to Twitch viewers ratios highlights just how much VR hardware requirements represent a prohibitive barrier to entry.

Countless fans of Half-Life appear to have been excluded from the fun through a lack of access or the sheer cost of VR technology, flocking instead to Twitch to experience the game vicariously.

Coronavirus-linked supply issues affecting the availability of Valve’ Index headsets may have played a part as well.

Half-Life: Alyx’s success is worth celebrating, especially in the context of what it will mean for VR in the long term, but there’s a sense that many Half-Life fans are missing out. Many have waited thirteen years to return to the franchise, only to be left peering in from the outside.