If virtual reality is going to become the Next Big Thing, Valve wants a piece of the action.
Valve is famous in gaming circles for its Half-Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead games. It also runs the Steam network, a growing channel for distributing games, and maintains SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system for the upcoming Steam Machine game consoles. Given that increasingly pervasive reach, it’s perhaps no surprise that the company would extend its ambitions to virtual reality.
The big reveal of “SteamVR” won’t come until next week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and Valve has released virtually no details in the interim. Whatever Valve releases will inevitably compete against not only Oculus Rift, which is backed by Facebook’s billions, but also VR offerings from Samsung and Sony. If that wasn’t enough potential rivalry, Microsoft’s Hololens—a headset that projects holographic imagery on the surrounding environment—is due out sometime this year.
There’s also the big question of when SteamVR would hit the market, if ever. Valve is famous for working on “Valve Time,” in which products take years to come to fruition; despite almost a decade of pleading from the franchise’s fan-base, Half-Life 3 remains vaporware, and the much-anticipated Steam Machines have yet to appear. Whenever Valve’s VR tech arrives, though, it’ll prove a strong competitor by virtue of the company’s reputation—and its presence will likely provide another opportunity for any game developers who’re interested in exploring virtual reality for their next projects.