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Valve 'Comfortable' If Virtual Reality Headsets Fail (bbc.com) 88

VR headset developer Valve is "comfortable" with the idea that the technology could turn out to be a complete failure. Gabe Newell, head of the game studio, made the statement in an interview with news site Polygon. From a report: Valve is co-developer of the Vive VR headset with phone firm HTC. Mr Newell said, so far, interest in the technology was in line with its expectations and that some VR games had already sold well. In the rare and wide-ranging interview, Mr Newell said the advent of VR had much in common with the development of PCs in the 1980s. In both cases, he said, people bought technology without knowing why and discovered afterwards what they were good for. For the PC, he said, it was spreadsheets and businesses that drove the initial success. With VR, people were only starting to discover compelling uses as they experimented and took risks with the technology.Mr Newell said there were now about 1,300 VR-based applications on its Steam gaming service and about 30 of those had made more than $250,000 in revenue.
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Valve 'Comfortable' If Virtual Reality Headsets Fail

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they're already discussing failure as an outcome, well, then it has.

    • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @02:09PM (#53880907) Homepage

      No, what he's saying is they make a tidy profit on every single one of those 700$ face-huggers. It makes no difference whatsoever if not a single more were ever sold. It was already a success.

      • Yes, and as noted above Gaben saying "it doesn't matter if we don't sell any more" indicates that they don't expect to sell many more.

        i.e. it's failed.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          No, it means they literally don't care. Valve doesn't do budgets. See the same interview.

    • If you've ever used one, you wouldn't say this. The only issue is that it's not exactly ready for the masses.

      • ... but hasn't that been the case for all VR attempts, like since forever?

        Anything but a full blown holodeck isn't going to appeal to the masses.

        • That's a silly argument. The market is always there you just need to find it.

          Why would anybody watch a film at home when you could watch it at the theater with superior screen and sound? Why would anybody watch a film on their phone or laptop when their home theater has the superior screen and sound? Why would anybody watch a Youtube video when TV and Film have superior production values?

      • I think its ready for the masses. It's already awesome and I'm certain it's here to stay. Now it's a question of finetuning it and improving usability. The two main problems to solve are locomotion and the relatively low resolution that makes text editing and something like virtual desktops unpractical at the moment. But even so it already has great experiences to offer that can appeal to anybody. Valve's "The Lab" is a testament to this.

        • The experience is ready, the price isn't.
        • I think the main issue is that it requires a high end computer that most of us build ourselves, but which joe sixpack has to buy from some systems company and figure out what he needs. In theory one might sell "Oculus Rift/Vive Ready Game Machine", but I don't think the marketing has got there yet.

          Your technical issues I agree with, but honestly every time I put the thing on I forget my gripes about all the bugs and issues, everything that was promised in the 90s is being delivered, I really don't see this

    • by Wescotte ( 732385 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @09:30PM (#53883329)

      You can see the quote in context here: https://youtu.be/kMpQWSqQFK0?t... [youtu.be]

      He's simply saying he VR is interesting and worth an attempt even if it fails. He also announces in the same interview that Valve is currently developing 3 distinct VR games. Not small "The Lab" experiences but full games. That doesn't sound like the actions of a company who believes VR is dead.

    • by Unknown User ( 4795349 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @01:34PM (#53880695)
      Out of curiosity, may I ask why? Do you work for Microsoft?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Valve failed.

      I never really dug PC games, I've always enjoyed playing casually on console more. However, with Steam creating a pretty good, bonafide controller experience, I've gotten myself a little set-top machine. With Steam you pay more for hardware and less for software. I really like the Steam platform. I hope they can make the transition to SteamOS someday, and I could ditch windows.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Out of curiosity I checked the Steam web site for games that I already own and have installed on a PC, to see how many were available for Linux, Mac OS and Steam OS, not only were some of my favourites available but apparently I already own them on that OS as well, now that's cool, what can I say but bugger M$ with a dead dog's dingus. So now I have a choice of three OS's and abandoning some game titles or let a corporation steal my rights (so screw over my rights in order to play with a toy or preserve my

    • And then what? Origin and Windows store taking over?

      Please kill me when that happens. Because then I might actually have to switch to consoles to play games, and even though I hate them with a passion that would be the lesser evil.

  • I'm fairly certain a person in a high position stating they are comfortable with the failure of something means a few things: 1) It has already failed. But things in the market can fail very quickly or slowly. This appears to be a slower failure. 2) They have accounted for and have plans for how to deal with the failure. 3) They're positioning themselves so their customers aren't shocked when it completely fails, but leaves open the possibility that it might not fail.
    • I'd wager all that statement means is that they're making plenty of money via the Steam store, and don't see VR as a big moneymaker either way. Hell, they apparently don't even need to release games anymore.

      • by MtHuurne ( 602934 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @03:01PM (#53881213) Homepage

        They probably went into VR because if VR became the dominant way of playing games, it would eat their existing business. It's similar to why they made SteamOS as an insurance policy against Microsoft locking them out of the Windows platform.

        I think it's safe to say now that VR won't replace PC gaming on a monitor, certainly not any time soon. But since their existing business is doing fine and they didn't invest more than they could afford, it doesn't matter for them if VR fails or becomes a niche product.

        Personally, I think VR becoming a niche product is the most likely outcome. People buy expensive steering wheels or flight sticks to get more immersed in their favorite games and, for certain genres, VR can do the same.

      • In the same interview ( https://youtu.be/kMpQWSqQFK0 [youtu.be] ) Gabe announces Valve is making 3 unique VR games. Not tiny a tiny experiment like "The Lab" but three full fledged games. That's a pretty big investment to make if they didn't care about VR and only making money via Steam Sales.

    • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @02:34PM (#53881047) Homepage

      Gabe never 'positions' himself. You are confusing him with normal 'people in high positions'. He is not a spokesman, or a mouthpiece, or even a manager. He built the entire company of Valve in a way so he doesn't have to be the decider. He's just a smart dude at a company on the forefront of VR, and like any new and risky technology, it could fail. Like John Carmack, he pulls no punches... if something sucks, he says it sucks. If he fires someone, he publicly calls them an ass [reddit.com] (not necessarily his best moment).

      He is not in Marketing, and he doesn't really care what consumers think about his verbiage. In fact, his lack of a filter is part of why Valve as a company is so reticent to talk to the consumers directly, as his quotes have been used against him many times in the past.

      So I'm not saying your options are false, I'm just saying that you ascribe too much forethought into his choice of wording.

    • by Vairon ( 17314 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @03:06PM (#53881239)

      If you read the Valve employee handbook, failure is an accepted part of trying. They are not afraid to fail.

      http://www.valvesoftware.com/c... [valvesoftware.com]

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      VR has already failed. Remember a couple of years ago that it was "the new darling of gaming" and so on? There's a few niche titles that use it, there's a few games that support it. But it's a rehash of the 1990's failure all over again, with the same problems. Costs too much(this is probably the biggest problem), followed by requiring too much GPU power to output(usually requiring a high-end card, or the highest mid-range card). Between both of those you could make a multi-monitor setup pick up a 2-3

      • by iceaxe ( 18903 )

        It'll likely be what it is, an expensive niche product that some people will enjoy but will never catch on with widespread adoption and the occasional developer adding support.

        Too right, just like those newfangled "GUI desktops" and mousie-things, or those Aye-Phone thingamabobs. Who's gonna write software for these things? Real Developers (TM) only work on proven technologies where they can make money today.

        </sarcasm>

        OK, maybe you're right, but I would be less surprised if some form of VR/AR that nobody is quite predicting yet grows up to be a very desirable and commonly used interface to humans. Time will tell.

      • The Vive/Rift and even PSVR have shown that it's possible to make a pretty darn good VR experience for the consumer market. Sure, there are problems but to say they are no different than the 90s VR headsets is just silly. A game for VR isn't drastically different than any typical high end PC game. VR simply requires hardware a bit more towards bleeding edge end of the spectrum is all.

        A multi modern setup is simply not capable of giving you the same experience as room scale VR with motion controls. VR in it'

      • Costs too much(this is probably the biggest problem), followed by requiring too much GPU power to output(usually requiring a high-end card, or the highest mid-range card). Between both of those you could make a multi-monitor setup pick up a 2-3 27" and be quite happy.

        You're still going to need a mid-high end card to run a setup like that. In fact if it's more than 2 displays then you'll need even more, the latest Pascal architecture allows for single pass rendering of the multiple VR viewpoints so the GPU requirements only decrease with that.

        These are the same things that happened with 3D-TV remember that?

        Nope, 3D TVs certainly didn't cost much and didn't require any additional power to run.

  • Slightly rephrased (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sumus Semper Una ( 4203225 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @01:46PM (#53880771)

    Couldn't this article and the question asked to Newell be slightly rephrased along the lines of, "Is Valve relying on the success of its VR headset as its primary driver of growth?" The answer appears to be "no," which seems like the prudent business strategy to me.

  • VR will never fail as badly as 3D TVs because it's an easy add-on for smartphones.
  • by Eloking ( 877834 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @02:07PM (#53880891)

    Honestly, I don't see how VR could fail. It's a incredible feature for a lot of game (Try Elite Dangerous with a X52 joystick and I dare you to tell me otherwise).

    Right now (and I emphasize on that), the only drawback is, well, money for both the consumer and the developer.

    The specs needed to support VR is insane right now. Top that the +1000$ bucks for the VR and you'll scare more than a few. The cost for AAA game too is problematic as cannot use fixed cam to render only a part of the games. Top that the small number of people that can afford the VR and it's already unprofitable unless you're making a game that can play with or without VR.

    I say, give it some time and, sooner or later, the VR will boom.

    • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

      Sure it can. I'd even say its likely to- it reminds me a lot of 3d TV. It provides little value, it doesn't actually make games more fun, its not good for your eyes to have a screen that close in constant focus, and it gives me a headache. I wouldn't use it if you gave me a free headset.

      The question is do more people think like me or like you?

    • VR can "fail", and will, because people don't stick with games where the main challenge is "keep from barfing".

      To clarify: today's VR will fail, as did VR from the 1990s and 2000s. We might get there in the 2020s, with tracking cameras operating at kilohertz frame rates, displays refreshing at 300Hz or better, and a graphics pipeline that doesn't introduce more than a frame or two of latency -- IF game designers put some serious thought into maintaining consistent motion perception among all modes (visual-f

    • by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @03:25PM (#53881355)

      Agreed.

      The only thing stopping it is the cost of the hardware required to support it. The VR unit itself in addition to the decent horsepower machine that runs it puts the cost out of reach for those who can just buy a console for their gaming fix.

      When the hardware prices come down, more developers will create content because they will have a larger potential player base.

      Right now it's akin to a Tesla. Lot's of fun, but not affordable enough for the masses.

    • by e r ( 2847683 )
      (disclaimer: I work at a research institute on a VR project)

      The specs needed to support VR is insane right now. Top that the +1000$ bucks for the VR and you'll scare more than a few.

      1. The specs aren't really insane. You will require a top-of-the-line machine (a modern i7, 8+ GB RAM, and a GTX 970 or better), but it's not insane. We spent about $1400 on our machines that run the VR and our project is built with Unreal Engine 4.12. It depends on the kind of graphics and shaders you're running.
      2. We have both the Rift and the Vive. Both of them, with controllers, totaled about $800 each.
      3. That is still pretty steep compared t

      • We spent about $1400 on our machines

        ...and $1400 desktops is well below 1% of the desktop market.

        ...and your company thinks systems with enough performance "arent really insane" given this fact? ..or is it just you that thinks that?

    • by Octorian ( 14086 )

      Honestly, I don't see how VR could fail. It's a incredible feature for a lot of game (Try Elite Dangerous with a X52 joystick and I dare you to tell me otherwise).

      Yes, its an incredible feature for Elite Dangerous with a good HOTAS setup. In fact, I don't really like playing that game without VR now that I've experienced it with VR.

      The problem is that most other VR-enabled games feel like glorified tech demos, that I wouldn't really bother playing seriously if I weren't looking for something to use VR for.

      I just hope that Valve/HTC and Facebook/Oculus are willing to bankroll VR for long enough for the rest of the content to catch up.

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        >> The problem is that most other VR-enabled games feel like glorified tech demos, that I wouldn't really bother playing seriously if I weren't looking for something to use VR for.

        I totally feel your pain in looking for longer, quality VR experiences. Just in case you haven't already discovered it, you should try "The Solus Project". I love it and I'm very picky.

    • I find it interesting (and slightly depressing), both in this comment and the responses, that everyone still thinks of VR as a "game thing." It has so much potential beyond games, and that is why it will succeed (eventually). It will take more time, but definitely not twenty years.

      The reasons it's not taking off (as fast as some overly optimistic people thought) are plenty. Expensive, yes. Takes space in your home, yes (and most people don't have it to spare). Tethered and can trip you, yes. Biggest o

  • I think a lot of the commenters here are speculating a little too hard. As someone who's met him, Newell isn't one to go ceo-marketspeak on everyone. It seems to me that he is simply stating that they want to innovate for innovations sake, and innovation fails sometimes. We all know they are raking in the money with steam, so they don't NEED this to be successful. Outside of that, they are turning a profit on a high ticket item where most of their target audience cant afford it. Gotta give them props for th
  • Gaben: "Well, it's not like this is the 3rd version of it, AMIRITE?"

  • It is pretty much game over for HTC if this fails, since their phone business is not going too well...

  • If VR fails, they'll finally release Episode 3
  • The full unedited version of the interview hasn't been released yet but you can see most of statement responsible for these articles here: https://youtu.be/kMpQWSqQFK0?t... [youtu.be]

    "We think VR is going great. It's going in a way that is consistent with our expectations." "We're also pretty comfortable with the idea that it will turn out to be a complete failure. Simply because if you're not trying to do things that might fail you're probably not trying to do anything interesting at all."

    It's pretty clear he's not

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