The slow growth of the PC VR market since 2016 has led to a lot of discussion of whether the platform failed. But, for Valve, things have apparently gone pretty much as planned.
Valve’s Robin Walker suggested as much in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun surrounding the release of Half-Life: Alyx last week.
“I think there were always a lot of venture capitalists who really wanted VR to explode in some way that we’d never seen hardware do before, but VR adoption has gone pretty much the way we thought it was going to,” Walker explained. “We’ve always said we should be realistic about how this is going to go. I think that we leave [Alyx] now convinced that there’s a really interesting medium that can build experiences that we haven’t been able to build on our previous platforms. We would never have believed that VR was going to replace anything – that’s all silly talk.”
Early PC VR systems launched with big price tags and required expensive PCs to run, putting up huge barriers to entry. While those challenges still remain to an extent, cheaper, easier to use headsets, standalone hardware like Oculus Quest and big titles like Alyx have made getting into VR a more attractive proposition. But, while Facebook has driven costs down to accessible $399 headsets, Valve also doubled down on the enthusiast market, launching the $999, high-specification Valve Index last year. Neither company has revealed sales stats for their respective headset to date, though.
Crucially, though, Valve software like Alyx doesn’t require an Index to run; you can play it on practically any headset that works with a VR-ready PC.
Still, it’s interesting to hear that VR is progressing as Valve had predicted. It would be even more interesting to hear where the company thinks the industry will go from here. Ahead of Alyx’s launch Gabe Newell suggested we were “closer to the Matrix” than we thought, but does he mean months, years or more?