Sony has provided more information about the release of its PS VR2 through its official blog. According to its latest blog post about this product, the new VR headset, which is the main part of a PS VR2 bundle or package, will hit the market on February 22, 2023. The retail price of the entire bundle is now set at US$549. The bundle comprises the PS VR headset, two Sense controllers, and a set of stereo headphones. While the price of the PS VR2 is higher than that of the PS5 (i.e., US$499 for the standard PS5 and US$399 for the Digital Edition of the console), it is worth noting that the previous generation of the PS VR headset—the PS VR—priced the same as the PS4 Pro (i.e., US$399). Also, if we include two previous-generation PS VR controllers (i.e., the Move controllers) that cost US$49 each, then consumers would pay a total of US$497. Hence, the price difference between the older PS VR bundle and the PS VR2 bundle is almost US$50; and this is actually a fairly reasonable reflection of the cost of the new hardware. After all, the PS VR2 and the Sense controller incorporate quite a few new features and components such as eye-tracking and haptic feedback.
Generally speaking, Sony’s plan is not about making the PS VR2 more expensive than the latest PS console, per se, but rather about following a pricing strategy that is specific to its VR devices. It should be pointed out that for the previous generation, Sony sold the headset separately from the supporting controller. There was no bundle back then. Now, the company only sells the PS VR2 in a package deal that includes the headset and two motion controllers. Because of this change in sales strategy, consumers feel a price hike. As for the possibility of Sony selling standalone PS VR2 headsets in the future, TrendForce believes such move will be unlikely mainly because Sony is focusing on gaming experience rather than instinctively trying to raise the market penetration rate of the PS VR2.
When the PS VR was launched, the gaming experience that it provided was affected by the low market penetration rate of the PS4 Pro. Learning from this lesson, Sony has removed forward compatibility from the hardware and software designs of the PS VR2. Therefore, the combination of the PS VR2 bundle and the PS5 console is now the only way to get the most ideal VR gaming experience from Sony. And with this approach, Sony hopes to raise the market penetration rate of the PS VR as a whole. Moreover, the gaming experience for users of the PS VR2 will be mainly immersive. So, in addition to the specially designed video and audio content, the PS VR2 will also feature a wider range of operations and a greater variety of feedback mechanisms. Additionally, the game content for the PS VR2 will be designed specifically for the Sense controller. All these details again reveal a strategy that insists on a total package for consumers.
PS VR2 Shipments Are Forecasted to Reach 1.6 Million Units for 2023
While pricing will definitely affect the sales volume of the PS VR2, it is also important to remember that the game console market targets a just few particular subsections of consumers. VR gaming is thus a narrow segment within this niche market, and VR gaming devices are never going to reach the same scale in sales when compared with the more typical consumer electronic devices. Furthermore, game console users as a group tend to be willing to spend more than do most other consumers. Hence, providing a proper gaming experience is a much more effective way to grow the VR gaming market as opposed to trying to keep hardware prices down.
And for the reasons described above, we can also anticipate that the cumulative sales volume of the PS VR2 will unlikely be comparable to that of Meta’s Quest 2, which has reached the level of tens of millions. However, the PS VR2 should have no problem reaching the 5~10% market penetration rate that is already attained by the PS5. TrendForce projects that the cumulative total sales volume of the PS5 console will surpass 30 million units by the end of 2022. Considering the impact of the weakening economy on consumer spending and the lack of VR games in the initial period of adoption, some gamers will put off purchasing the PS VR2 until they believe the time is right. Still, shipments of this device are forecasted to reach 1.6 million units for 2023. The key factor that could push sales of the PS VR2 even higher is whether its games have the content that complements its hardware and thus provide an exceptionally immersive experience.
According to TrendForce, prices for 4Q22 contracts were mostly finalized in October in contract market. The QoQ decline in the overall DRAM ASP has now reached 18~23%. This discrepancy is due to the fact that Samsung maintains a rather aggressive approach for pricing. Regarding 1Q23, TrendForce has revised the QoQ decline in the overall ASP from 5~10% to 15~20% provided that Samsung continues to be this competitive. TrendForce is also not ruling out the possibility that prices could drop by more than 20% for some types of DRAM products.
As for spot market, October saw spot transactions at their lowest level so far for this year. Moving into November, the ongoing decline in DRAM spot prices will unlikely ease anytime soon as China maintains its strict zero-COVID policy and enforces lockdown for local outbreaks. Furthermore, the major DRAM suppliers have made substantial price concessions in their contract negotiations, thereby creating downward pressure on spot prices as well. TrendForce has observed that the average spot price of the mainstream 1Gb DDR4 chips has been falling rapidly since October 24 with the daily decline exceeding 1%.
Until November 9, the sequential drop in the average spot price of 1Gb DDR4 chips has reached 8.36%. At the same time, spot prices of server DRAM modules have now fallen below the lowest point in the previous cyclical downturn and arrived around US$70. This indicates that there is a considerable room for a further drop in contract prices in 1Q23. Regarding weekly change in the spot price trend of the mainstream chips (i.e., DDR4 1Gx8 2666MT/s), the average spot price slid by 2.30% from US$ 2.222 last week to US$2.171 this week.
According to a Financial Times report on October 24, 2022, as the U.S. Department of Commerce moves to restrict U.S. personnel from supporting semiconductor manufacturing “facilities” located in China to develop or produce chips without Department approval, Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd. (YMTC) has taken steps to avoid violating the ban and allowed a number of core employees with U.S. citizenship to resign.
YMTC is a domestic NAND flash memory chip manufacturer in China. In 2018, it only possessed the ability to produce 32-layer MLC 64Gb products. At that time, mainstream products offered by international manufacturers were 92-layer/96-layer TLC 256Gb/512Gb. Since then, YMTC has continued to catch up in terms of technology. By 2020, it had the capacity to mass-produce 128-layer TLC 512Gb products. The company’s new X3-9070 product, released in 3Q22, is estimated to have 232 stacked layers, equaling major international manufacturers if only in the amount of layers.
U.S. personnel played a key role in the process of YMTC’s continuous technological breakthroughs including Simon Yang, CEO since 2016. On the eve of the latest U.S. sanctions, Simon Yang resigned as CEO to become managing director. After the ban came into effect, a number of core personnel of U.S. nationality who assisted in the development of process technology resigned in succession. As sanctions continue to roil, technological development at YMTC may be delayed as a result.
Under the influence of the U.S. ban, YMTC not only faces brain drain, but will also experience difficulties expanding mass production of mainstream products and next-generation products. Since the U.S. Department of Commerce not only placed restrictions on equipment utilized to produce 128-layer (or more) NAND flash memory chips, but also maintains a “presumption of refusal” when reviewing the export of such equipment to China, YMTC may be unable to obtain sufficient equipment to produce next-generation 232-layer products or expand the production of mainstream 128-layer products.
As international NAND flash memory chip manufacturers continue to mass-produce products with more than 200 layers and move towards 300+ layers, if YMTC cannot manufacture products over 128 layers because the company continues to be limited by talent and equipment restrictions, the technological divide between YMTC and major international manufacturers will widen again and its recent efforts to keep up with technology will also come to nothing.
Shipments in the global Chromebook product market are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Mature markets such as the United States and emerging markets such as India and Indonesia will play a key role, primarily due to a small number of education tenders to promote shipments, and this rebound can be expected to continue based on future demand in mature and emerging markets. Global shipments of Chromebook products are estimated to reach 15.9 million units in 2023, an annual increase of approximately 8.2%.
In terms of regional markets, apart from Japan and Europe, the United States is the largest market for Chromebook products, accounting for 90% of the world’s demand for Chromebooks. Supported by a bailout bill proposed by the U.S. government and the developmental policy of the U.S. education market, lower-priced distance learning tools such as educational laptops, entry-level laptops, and tablet computers are gradually forming a bastion of Inelastic Demand.
Emerging markets such as India and Indonesia may become new blue oceans for Chromebooks
It is worth noting that the PC industry looks to emerging markets such as India and Indonesia. Relying on a huge demographic dividend, these countries may become another blue ocean market for Chromebooks after the United States, Japan, and Europe. However, TrendForce believes that emerging markets such as India and Indonesia are currently suffering from rising inflation coupled with economic headwinds such as currency depreciation pressure. Chromebooks, which are relatively inexpensive in mature markets, may hold little allure for the Indian and Indonesian education markets, as white-label tablet products will put competitive pressure on Chromebooks at lower prices. In addition, whether procurement policies for distance learning tools in emerging markets such as “Digital India” can be effective depends on the priority of emerging market governments for budgeting projects. At present, such markets have placed more urgency on improving the quality of infrastructure while education tenders may be sidelined.
Since corrections continue to occur in the current global notebook computer market as a result of the “overbooking” bubble, destocking of terminal products is expected to continue until the first half of 2023, when cyclical growth momentum is likely to return to the market.
TrendForce forecasts that global notebook computer market shipments will reach 191 million units in 2022, falling 22.3% YoY. The first quarter of 2022 benefitted from a backstop created by market demand for business model notebooks, laying the foundation for a 2022 “not-off off-season.” However, the global notebook computer market encountered zero-COVID control measures in Shanghai, China, resulting in a supply chain suspension in 2Q22. In addition, rising inflation stalled global consumer electronics market demand. Shipment volume is only expected to be approximately 44.35 million units up until 4Q22, demonstrating that 2022 has reversed the established market norm, replacing “QoQ growth” with “QoQ decline.”
Global notebook computer market shipments will reach 177 million units in 2023, cyclical growth momentum is expected to play an important role
Looking back on 2022, due to the reversal of demand in the global notebook computer market beginning in 2Q22, the overbooking bubble caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has corrected quarter by quarter, resulting in a sharp increase in inventory levels at PC brands. Therefore, accelerating the destocking of notebook computer products is the current focus of PC brands with individual sales channels all adopting promotional strategies based on substantial price cuts. If the inventory level of terminal products can be reduced, it will be beneficial for PC brands to continue purchasing semiconductors and other materials in 2023 and pessimistic market conditions will not spread to the foundry industry, which is conducive to a positive cycle.
Movements in the current global laptop market to correct for the overbooking bubble will continue until the first half of 2023. The second half of 2023 coincides with cyclical growth momentum from back-to-school shopping and holiday seasons in major consumer electronics markets such as the United States, Europe, China, and Japan, and the global notebook computer supply chain is expected to ramp up supply from 2Q23 to reproduce a demand scenario wherein the second half of previous years surpassed the first half. Global notebook computer market shipments is estimated to reach 177 million units in 2023, an annual decline of approximately 7.7% and the proportion of shipments in terms of the first half compared to the second half of the year will be approximately 47:53.