HTC and Valve announced their own virtual reality headset this week, the HTC Vive, and it’s quickly shaping up to be the first serious competitor to the Oculus Rift.
Everyone who has tried The Vive is raving about how immersive it is, but beyond its impressive specs, it’s the company behind the software, Valve, that will make it a contender for the virtual reality crown.
While Valve doesn’t have the same brand recognition as HTC, Valve has a cult-like following in the gaming community thanks to its popular gaming platform Steam, which is basically an app store for PC and Mac games that also acts a social hub for gamers to team up.
Gamers love Valve. You could even argue that no other gaming company around today has as sterling of a reputation as Valve. Beyond Steam, Valve is also responsible for some of the top-rated games of the past decade including Portal, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, and the legendary Half-Life series.
Most importantly, Valve has a track record of putting gamers and gameplay first in an age where big game publishers such as EA and Ubisoft have come under fire for over-promising on games and failing to deliver.
Valve’s co-founder Gabe Newell, nicknamed “Gaben” after his well-known email address, has also become something of a legend among gamers, notorious for his approachable attitude and outspoken views on game consoles like the Xbox. Avid fans have created a subreddit devoted to Newell, and fans like DarrenGeers over at DeviantArt have even created artwork depicting Newell in heroic poses and situations.
The point is that Valve, unlike Oculus, has already earned the trust and loyalty of gamers. A large majority of Valve users are also PC gamers, which can’t hurt when you’re developing the only other major virtual reality headset that plugs into a PC.
Interestingly enough, Valve and Oculus are hardly enemies. The two companies have worked closely together in the past, and Oculus even hired Valve’s virtual reality guru Michael Abrash as its chief scientist.
There’s still no doubt that Oculus is still leading the charge for virtual reality. Facebook’s $US2 billion acquisition of Oculus opens up a lot of doors, and its partnership with Samsung is rumoured to give Oculus access to advanced mobile displays that could give it an edge. Oculus has also amassed a team of geniuses including Abrash and John Carmack, along with the father of the Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey.
It’s a formidable team, and Oculus certainly has the benefit of a head start and access to Facebook’s riches, but there are still those who are wary of Facebook’s purchase of Oculus and what that will mean in the future. That’s where Oculus is vulnerable, and Valve is poised to offer a gamer-first alternative with the HTC Vive that doesn’t make any compromises.