"2016’s accessories market will be shaped by virtual reality"

We may have seen some big titles this year already, including The Division and Dark Souls III.

There may be some huge titles just around the corner, such as Uncharted 4, Doom, Battleborn and Overwatch.

VR headsets may be just reaching consumers. But none of this appears to have boosted accessory sales.

If we look at the traditional console accessories market (no toys-to-life or digital content), the market is down 3.3 per cent year-to-date in units,” says Chris Poole, senior account manager at research company GfK.

But it is up 2.6 per cent year-to-date in revenue,” he quickly adds. The main product areas are still controllers, headsets and docks/chargers. The latter is down 0.9 per cent in units and 7.2 per cent in revenue, whereas controllers are down 8.3 per cent in units and up 1.8 per cent in revenue, and headsets are up 11.9 per cent in units and 3.1 per cent in revenue.

The feeling is that gamers have been less inclined to buy extra controllers as they are playing online more, where headsets are needed for new titles like The Division.”

2016 may be a flat year so far for most accessories, but Poole explains that 2015 was a particularly good year for the sector: The traditional console accessories market in 2015 was up 7.1 per cent in units and 18 per cent in revenue compared to 2014, boosted by the new consoles.”

Gaming accessories represented 495m in revenues in the UK in 2015, against 431m in 2014.

There’s one massive trend currently impacting the industry that could transform 2016 into a great success for the accessories market – or on the contrary drag it down. As Poole says it, the biggest tendency in the market at the moment is a decline in traditional console controllers with online-only and new forms of interaction – virtual reality – on the horizon.”

VR is the trend everyone is looking forward to in the accessories industry.

Virtual reality on PS4 is going to launch with a huge bang and I, for one, am hoping that bang is sustained,” says Jonathan Rose, business development manager at Lime Distribution, which specialises in pro-gaming accessories.

I’m pretty sure it will be a more immersive experience and a natural progression into the future of gaming. I know that’s what I thought about when I was a child, that it would be cool to play inside a video game and here we are taking a step in that direction. It’s a whole new world of accessories for us and we can’t wait.”

And Jon Watts, brand manager at Accessories 4 Technology (A4T), couldn’t agree more: There can be absolutely no argument – 2016’s accessory market will be shaped by virtual reality.

Mobile VR headsets like our own make the huge wealth of content available on the Play and App stores accessible to anyone with a smartphone. The imminent launch of PlayStation VR will also bring with it a whole host of new officially licensed accessories. I think PC accessory sales will continue to grow exponentially – HTC Vive will run exclusively on Windows, OS and Linux, while Oculus Rift only runs fully on Windows. As gamers have to split their time between various consoles and PC, we should expect a spike in multiformat accessory sales as well.”

For now, A4T is focusing on Stealth, its VR headsets brand, and its ambition is to bring virtual reality to the mass market with a product starting as low as 30. The Stealth website goes live at the beginning of May and will be quickly followed by a Stealth VR app. Our mission is to give consumers free, 24/7 access to the latest VR news and content from all industries – beyond just mobile VR and gaming,” Watts explains.

The VR boom is a global phenomenon and Stealth VR has already proved a massive hit in Japan, where it launched in March.”

"Virtual reality means a whole new world of accessories for us and we can’t wait."

Jonathan Rose, Lime Distribution

But, of course, virtual reality accessories will not be the only peripherals coming to the market in the coming months, as traditional products are still performing strongly.

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One continue to drive accessory sales as last-generation sales drop off,”
says Watts.

GfK’s Poole details: In 2014, revenue from PS4 accessories across our panel of retailers was 36.9m, while Xbox One was 39.8m. In 2015 the gap between the two has widened with PS4 accessories accounting for 56.1m and Xbox One for 72.2m.”

The numbers sound promising, but there’s been a shift in the market this year, with big players such as Mad Catz struggling, paving the way for other companies.

With some of competitors having a tough time, PDP expect another record year of double digit growth,” confirms Dave Nelson, UK sales manager at PDP.

PDP’s market innovation into next gen technology makes us ideally positioned to maximise the current gen.”

Even First Party products are having a tough year.

Official Microsoft and Sony accessories have less revenue share of the market so far this year (45.5 per cent) compared to year-to-date 2015 (51.4 per cent),” says Poole. Third Parties have picked up with Turtle Beach going from 14.8 per cent to 16.8 per cent while Venom and X-Rocker have both also increased share.”

Lime boss Rose also expects big things from another rising brand: Astro.

We expect Astro Gaming to really continue to capture the market, it never ceases to improve on its productseven when you think there is nothing to improve upon.”

Rose is also optimistic regarding the accessories market as a whole.

Accessories, as always, is an awesome sector to be in. Summer slump? Not here,” he enthuses.

We have some big announcements coming this year for new products, new licensing and new exclusives. It’s been an exciting and successful year so far and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.”

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