According to a press email circulated on Saturday morning by Valve Software:
“SteamVR Desktop Theater Mode is in early beta, and will be showcased at next week’s Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. Desktop Theater Mode enables users to play non-VR games with VR systems such as the upcoming HTC Vive and others.”
No screenshots or videos were sent to accompany this release. We have reached out to Valve for comment but at this point no responses have been issued. It looks like we may have to wait until GDC begins to fully understand just how immersive, powerful, and engaging this new feature is going to be.
What this sounds like, however, is a similar release to the Big Screen VR program we wrote about earlier in the week. This application visualizes your full desktop in a VR world as a series of summonable screens and widgets. It could be that Steam VR Desktop Theater Mode is taking a similar approach and is seeking to not only provide VR screens floating in aimless space for you to play your Steam games, but to provide a VR world in which to enjoy them.
Another question mark to be answered is exactly what the release means when it says that this feature will be supported on the HTC Vive “and others.”
Will this new program bring the same Steam-games-in-VR experience to competing headsets such as the Oculus Rift? It seems more than likely.
Valve has already gone on record as being more than willing to bend over backwards to support the Rift on its Steam distribution platform and historically Valve as a company prioritizes software over hardware 100 percent of the time. It is in the company’s best financial interest to support as many HMDs as possible so that Steam is as appealing as possible to the widest group of potential customers.
As high-end headsets move steadily closer to their mass market release dates, more and more effort is being made to ensure that you the consumer will want to spend as much time in VR as possible. The “virtual desktop” is one initiative that could potentially turn these devices from occasional entertainment systems, into everyday-use platforms.