Steam Will Support Microsoft’s Windows-based VR Headsets

by Ian Hamilton • August 28th, 2017

Windows-based VR headsets on the way from Microsoft’s partners will work with Valve Software’s Steam.

The announcement today from the companies could have long-lasting implications for the evolution of the VR industry, firmly establishing Valve’s leading PC software store as a one-stop shop for content that can run on any major PC-based VR headset. Steam already supports Vive, Rift and OSVR.

It is unclear whether the Steam support is automatic for all VR titles when a Windows-based VR headset and motion controllers are present, or whether individual developers will have to manually add support for Windows headsets one app at a time. For now, Valve and Microsoft declined to provide additional details.

“The introduction of Windows Mixed Reality headsets is [a] big step forward for VR,” Valve’s Joe Ludwig said in a prepared statement. “Working with Microsoft to include SteamVR compatibility with these devices is also a big step in growing VR as an open platform for developers and consumers. With a broad range of hardware options available from leading PC manufacturers, the Steam community will have more choice than ever to experience the amazing potential of VR.”

Microsoft’s VR hand controllers are like a mashup of of the Vive and Rift controllers. Unlike those systems, though, they don’t require sensors or markers outside the playspace to operate.

We’ve been skeptical of Microsoft’s approach to hand controllers for VR, given that they are expected to work best when in view of the headset’s forward facing sensors, but Games Editor David Jagneaux went hands-on with them recently and found them capable even when held behind his back. Many of the most immersive VR games rely on gestures like throwing or grabbing items from a virtual backpack. These gestures work great with Vive and Rift because those tracking systems are able to pinpoint the controller positions from the outside. If Microsoft’s system is able to match these capabilities the headsets could hit a sweet spot with easier setup, lower cost and great content.

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  • Raghavendra Kopalle

    This is a welcome move, we need an open ecosystem rather than walled gardens and consumers need choice. I believe entry barrier for the headset + supporting PC would come sub $1000 in an years time, that would help developers confidently build for a sizeable market.

    • Bramagola

      Unless those prices are sub 500, VR’s THIRD ITERATION, in 30 years, has failed. Wait for the next.

      • Raghavendra Kopalle

        Not sure how you define failure for the current iteration. Could you elaborate your metric?

        • Jim Cherry

          Obviously anything less than iphone levels of success is a failure ;}

      • David D. Taylor

        Likewise, I’d like to know how this iteration has ‘failed’.

        • Bramagola

          You guys are too lazy to educate yourself, so you come to a forum to do it? Go search the internet, go ask Series A investors, go look at the marketplace, yourself. This is not a “surprise” moment of failure. Its been trending down since Vive entered the marketplace and killed Rift sales. They didn’t “supplement” sales of VR devices, they supplanted the existing, shrinking, market.

          Again, dont listen to me, cause you wont anyway. GO READ AND ASK ACTUAL INVESTORS. But hey, that might be anathema to you sitting on your asses looking at forums as Encyclopedias.

          • Xilence

            Sorry, what? Given that billions are being poured in with actual products hitting market, and all phones now being VR capable… I wonder.

    • Xilence

      It is Sub-$1000, actually we have an article right here detailing that. But nevermind that, integrated graphics *can* run this. Also, once Project Sansar allows NSFW content, then we’ll be all ready to go. Something like that especially with LL’s power + this would really help bolster the base market alongside mainline gamers.

      • Nelson Jenkins

        Sansar is a sick joke. LL proved that they have no clue what they’re doing by showing us their hand in the open beta. It’s a completely non-interactive world that scraps SL’s best features – realtime editing and border connectivity. It’s basically an online map editor.

        • Xilence

          They’re not trying to lose money though, have they announced the readding of those features or no? Because SL is horribly unpolished. We can’t keep it forever.

          • Nelson Jenkins

            They have explicitly said that Sansar experiences will be completely disconnected from each other and that the “editing mode” will be permanent because of the way the rendering/physics engine is designed. Sansar is too late to the party, and they’re rapidly trying to pump Sansar tech back into SL (at this point, mainly cloud servers).

          • Xilence

            Are you saying that Sansar’s tech will get folded back into SL? Have any sources for that?

  • Diego Lopez

    Oculus it’s time to open your store to other HMDs. ReVive proves you could.

    • Bundy

      I agree that they should.

    • J.C.

      Oculus is gonna be screwed if they don’t open up their store when these launch. There will be 6 VR headsets by the end of the year and the Oculus store currently supports ONE. Their current advantage (lowest price headset) is about to disappear.

      Maybe they just don’t want to make money? Anyway, having exclusives will get harder as developers ask “why would I make a game for one headset when I could release it for 6?”. Exclusivity costs are going to get higher.

      • David D. Taylor

        I agree that they should open up the store, and I agree that exclusives hurt the industry as a whole right now, but there are VR titles that wouldn’t get made without the big $$$ amount provided by companies for exclusives… Sony is playing the same game, paying huge amounts to keep the games exclusive, even if only for a timed exclusive.

        • J.C.

          This is always the excuse, but it’s a broken excuse. There’s no LEGITIMATE reason Oculus Sotre games can’t work on Vive or these windows headsets; they simply don’t WANT to. With the PS4, at least, it’s completely different hardware and operating system.

          Oculus is quite welcome to have store exclusives, I’m just unclear on why they do it. They aren’t trying to make money on the headsets, that’s pretty obvious. So they have to be focusing on software sales…otherwise there’s literally be no reason for the Oculus Store to exist. Their tactic would work fine if there wasn’t ALREADY another, much more established store to compete with.

          Anyway, they’ll have to open their doors, or they’ll die. Doesn’t matter how much money they pump into the store, if only a small fraction of the already small VR user group can access it. ReVive unfortunately exists, letting them sit on their hands while impatient Vive owners purchase games that they have zero support for. The guy who made ReVive doesn’t understand that HE IS THE REASON the store doesn’t have Vive support yet. Why bother with all that when some chump is willing to make a workaround for free, so they can sell software to people they wouldn’t have otherwise?

          • ender707

            One legitimate reason is that if they opened the store to other headsets, they would have to provide a reasonable level of support/troubleshooting for those headsets. The Oculus software is in beta and is a constant work in progress. Adding in how to make it all function well with tech they do not own or have any control over may be too much for their team to work on without compromising support for their own headset. We don’t have to like that, but it is a legit and plausible reason.

          • J.C.

            Oh no, they’d have to spend money on support so they could MAKE more money from the owners of other headsets! What a terrible problem to have for a company that has nearly unlimited funds.

            Honestly, I think they should go back to hardware locking to just their headset. That way they wouldn’t have to worry about Vive users potentially causing support issues from buying games using ReVive.

            They either want those users’ money, or they don’t. They can’t seem to make up their mind, and that’s the sort of thinking those people are paid to do. Again, ReVive is a problem and should be discontinued. It’s masking the issue, and making money for Oculus that they don’t deserve.

          • Jim Cherry

            Who decides what is legitimate again? Seriously though if facebook/oculus came out and said we dont support anyone else because: (we want telemetry data, support costs, development costs, support resources) or any other reason outside of we tried and it didnt work people would complain and say your facebook you have more money then god suck it up.

          • David D. Taylor

            Calm your biscuits, friend. The ‘LEGITIMATE’ reason is to try and move more Oculus hardware over Vive and PSVR. It’s not a broken excuse… Not my fault if you can’t see it, not all minds are as open as others… It is the SAME exact reason some games go exclusive on PSVR, and that is to push hardware sales over Vive and Rift.

            True, PSVR is a different platform, but working in the game dev industry, I know that developers often have the game working on the higher end platforms, even if they only release on PSVR. It is only because Sony pays them a large amount of money to keep it exclusive, nothing more.

            And let’s not forget, I AGREE that Oculus should officially open up the store to other headsets, but the above are at least some, if not all, of the facts.

            Or, you can continue your crusade of raging without knowing all the facts… I will admit, I get angry at companies and games for various reasons, but I try to remind myself that I don’t know all the facts, I’m not a member of that company, and I don’t know the individual struggles and reasons that brought that company to this point.

          • J.C.

            As soon as you go for personal attacks, you’ve invalidated your argument. Thanks for playing!

          • David D. Taylor

            Is it still invalidated if it’s true? If so, that will validate a lot of wrong things.

            My apologies if you took offense. Have a great night/day.

      • laast

        “why would I make a game for one headset when I could release it for 6?”

        Because Oculus gives them time and money to help on creating the game/content + Oculus can promote the project as a publisher.

        People buying VR want to have the best experiences available, and so far most of the best VR games are created/published by Oculus. Did you see the Steam VR library? Excepted a few titles, there’s nothing more than garbage/demo/early access.

        Without Oculus support, VR gems like Lone Echo wouldn’t even exist.

    • NooYawker

      FB will never open their store. The minuscule revenue they get from selling games means nothing to their core business. They only care about getting their hardware into your home. Selling software to someone using a vive or anyone else’s hardware has zero interest to them.

  • John

    This is really another nail in HTCs momentum. Clearly the most expensive set, and the only Edge is Viveport? Does not look good at all.

    • J.C.

      Yep. I’m happy with my Vive but HTC is facing some rough competition.

      I’m pleasantly surprised that the MS controllers appear to work quite well outside of the headset’s front view.

      • Jim Cherry

        HTC was supposed to be a partner in the windows mixed reality ecosystem. Wonder if they changed their mind or if they’re still working to be involved.

    • KSE1977

      Possibly. although certain good news for Valve and VR in general. Having MS play nice and be smart, for once, means that the whole SteamVR ecosystem is going to be boosted by a slew of new headsets, many cheaper than what is currently out there. This will hopefully reinvigorate the VR space and keep the tech evolving, while bringing in a larger number of adopters.

      • John

        I agree that HTC will gain from a larger ecosystem. But with their horrible financial resultrs past few year i doubt the warchest is enough to compete (lower Vive price) in the long run with heavywheights like HP, dell etc when they dont have the SteamVR upper hand any longer and Vive is starting to look like old tech. I really get that they are thinking of spinning Vive off in another company with someone else as backer.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    Promising, stinks that is doesn’t have integrated audio, and be wireless though. But can’t have it all (yet).

    • FastRDust

      but you can add a wireless headset 😛
      don’t know if that interferes wit the controllers though…