One cannot say that Gabe Newell and Valve are without vision or ambition. At the upcoming Game Developers Conference in March, the company will be delighting the public with updates on its foray beyond digital game distribution and into gaming hardware. While there will indeed be many eyes on its Steam machines and controllers, perhaps the spotlight for that week will be taken by a “previously unannounced” SteamVR hardware system that will put the company in race towards that still young and still unverified virtual reality market.
It’s not secret that Valve has had its eyes on VR for a while now. In fact, it revealed and demonstrated a prototype SteamVR headset during last year’s Dev Days. But by mentioning that it is previously unannounced, Valve is implying that this is not the same device. What has changed and what will it be like? Of course, Valve isn’t saying, but the VR industry has undergone a lot of changes since January 2014, and we can expect many of those advancements to be present here as well.
Whether or not Valve has the capability to build such a system isn’t really the question. The more pressing matter is whether it will be able to take it to completion and to retail. People will perhaps still remember the promise of Steam Machines, which have yet to be fulfilled in the way Valve envisioned it. We are most likely to hear about those next week, though we will have to separate the PR from reality. In fact, the pre-announcement does mention a “refined” Steam Controller, one of the most criticized parts of the Steam Machine set.
With thousands of game titles in its store, and a few of its own made games under its belt, it’s not hard to see the appeal of a Valve-made SteamVR system in your living room. That, of course, depends on how the company plans to move forward with its virtual reality adventure. VR isn’t something you can simply slap on to existing games and make the VR magic work, though if Valve does make that promise, it will definitely be a winner. A proper VR experience requires proper VR content, which is why Valve is on the lookout for content creators interested in making a name for themselves on Steam.
Valve will be revealing all at GDC in San Francisco from March 4 to 6.