The modern era of VR has been around in earnest for about three and a half years now. Though it has clearly demonstrated its potential and is slowly growing, adoption has remained niche compared to the broader mainstream gaming industry. While VR bubbles up here and there, the Half-Life: Alyx announcement and trailer has thrust VR into the spotlight of mainstream gaming; it’s release next year will be the medium’s next opportunity to prove itself.

Racking up more 10 million views across YouTube and Twitter in its first 24 hours, last week’s release of the Half-Life: Alyx trailer is likely the single fastest spreading exposure to VR of its kind (the trailer is now at 12.4 million views and counting).

While there are YouTube videos involving VR which have racked up tens of millions of views (like PewDiePie playing Beat Saber), such viral videos have succeeded on their standalone entertainment value rather than stimulating conversation among mainstream gamers and pundits. The trailer, on Valve’s official YouTube video alone, has generated nearly 60,000 comments. Links on Reddit have seen tens of thousands of additional comments.

The Half-Life: Alyx announcement also saw extensive press coverage compared to any other VR title before it; here’s a small sampling of gaming, general tech, and even major mainstream news publications which covered it:

Most of these publications covered even more than just the announcement trailer, including multiple op-eds and breakdowns of the info that Valve released on Thursday last week.

This is to be expected, of course. The Half-Life franchise is near-legendary, and clearly commands enough attention that even publications uninterested in VR itself felt that they must cover the news.

With Half-Life: Alyx, Valve has made VR something that the mainstream gaming-sphere can’t ignore any longer, says Denny Unger, the founder of Cloudhead Games, one of VR’s most seasoned developers. Beyond Pistol Whip and The Gallery Ep. 1 & Ep. 2, the studio has had a surprisingly close relationship with Valve, a company which rarely works with external partners; Cloudhead was one of a small handful of developers chosen to get access to Valve’s earliest VR dev kits (which would eventually become the HTC Vive) as well as the developer behind Aperture Hand Lab, a tech demo used to show off the unique hand-tracking capabilities of Index’s controllers.

“Up until now there has been an agenda to summarily ignore VR titles within the mainstream gaming press because it generally didn’t drive click-throughs,” Unger tells Road to VR. “With Half-Life:Alyx, it’s impossible to ignore the conversation. And at that point it is simultaneously impossible for flatscreen gamers to ignore VR. They will be forced recognize how the technology has changed, how much better it is than they might otherwise assume, and that VR isn’t simply a peripheral, it is its own medium.”

Image courtesy Valve

VR saw tremendous buzz when the first consumer VR headsets hit the market back in 2016, but the hype far exceeded actual adoption. In the time since then, VR hardware and software has improved significantly, but Unger says that it will have to overcome the lingering sentiment established at launch.

“Of course, the problem here is that we are still battling years worth of antiquated public understanding of where the tech currently sits. You still hear the same old tired arguments about why VR isn’t ready, yet the industry has solved a substantial bloat of issues both in terms of hardware friction and how we interface and interact with VR itself.”

Unger, who has worked closely with Valve over the years, thinks that Half-Life: Alyx, will be just the thing to show the world what VR really looks like in 2020, and even stands to be a proof-point other AAA studios.

Half-Life: Alyx will smash through so many of the false assumptions & arguments that have blockaded mainstream coverage of VR in recent years. And in doing so, it will also force the AAA industry at large to shift focus. There’s no denying that a great VR experience, when coupled with great hardware, validates the entire medium,” he said. “My personal hope is that with Half-Life: Alyx, the general public and the gaming ecosystem at large will finally accept VR into the fold. Why endlessly spend money on a new monitor or peripheral when you can jump into a completely new medium? VR is ready for prime-time.”

For Unger’s enthusiasm, there’s plenty of mainstream gamers out there who believe that VR still isn’t ready. The word “gimmick” is notably prevalent among dissenting opinions in comment threads by mainstream gamers, though, so far, the overall tone appears to lean more toward excitement and renewed curiosity in VR than pessimism.

More of our Half-Life: Alyx News

One thing is certain: many mainstream gaming and tech publications which rarely (or effectively never) cover VR will be picking up the requisite headsets and hardware to take a good close look at the game when it launches; Half-Life: Alyx will be the biggest opportunity to date for VR to show mainstream gamers why it’s worthy of their attention. No pressure, Valve.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Johnatan Blogins

    No pressure indeed :0

  • The Bard

    The worst now is “VR costs 1000$ for Valve Index” and “thousands of dollars for pc” which is bs. 229$ for Odyssey+, 300$ for GPU, 700$ for PC. Most people have a good PC, at least those who play games. Odyssey+ for 229$ is peanuts price. That’s the cost of entry. 229$.

    • and for just 100$ more than that you can get yourself a Rift S on Black Friday, and just 50$ more than that and you can get a Quest or a refurbished Vive. SO much cheaper than press wants people to believe.

      • Immersive Computing

        Or the discontinued WMR sets (Acer, Lenovo,etc.) which are on sale $150-200

    • JesuSaveSouls

      I got rid of my cv1 and picked up a first gen odyssey for 150,losing no money.It has the same res as that of valve,vive pro and odyssey+.Many gaming pcs and laptops on sale for black fri for 500.

      • Nice

        Seems like a good deal. $150 was for new Oddysey or used? Do you find tracking not being a downgrade from CV1?

    • Zantetsu

      I’ve asked this before and gotten no answer. Why do you shill for the Odyssey at every possible opportunity on this site? Do you just really like the headset or do you have other motives?

      • CURTROCK

        He not only shills for Odyssey, he actively puts down Oculus at every turn. A futile effort, these days…

      • G-man

        its the best wmr headset. all the others have a limitation, no ipd adjuster, etc. odyssey main downside is its not available in many places.

      • Tharny

        He never answers.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      I knew you were gonna bring up the Odyssey+ again, a headset which isn’t (officially) available in many countries (like mine, the Netherlands).. I do hope Samsung will finally show their new VR headsets of which they said in june that they will show something within months…….

    • brandon9271

      You can get a PC for much less that $700. You can get a refurbed HP or Dell for $200 or $300. Hell, i built a AMD FX 8320 based PC a few years back for almost nothing and it does VR great with a GTX 1070.

      • Nice

        Sure, but I guess we are talking about new parts. Most people buy new parts. If you buy used, it’s way cheaper.

    • G-man

      except the samsung odyssey+ isnt available in many places, uk and europe cant get it.

  • Jimmy Ray

    This is a must buy.

    • Kevin White

      I played through a lot of Half-Life 2 on the DK2 and it was when I fell in love with VR.

      I realized, when you play a game on a flat screen, you form a memory of having sat there and played a game on a screen, but when you’re in VR you form a memory of having BEEN somewhere else, even if it was played via moust and keyboard.

      • Raphael

        That’s a great way of expressing it! I played through HL2 with mouse, keys and a fresnel lens before DK2. When DK2 came along I played through HL2 again in VR with mouse and keys. I saw things in the game in VR that I never noticed sitting on the outside staring in.

        • Blanca

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  • Jimmy Ray

    My question with the people saying it’s to expensive. How did you get that new Gen console Xbox360/PS4 . I know you didn’t just put the whole cash on the table day one.

    • Adrian Meredith

      I bet they have 1000+ dollar iPhones too

    • Ellie 187

      its ridiculous talking to console gamers about anything… they have some antiquated perspective of PC gaming… their ignorance is breathtaking. They should just accept that PC gaming is the master race and worship it.


    Excellent article on a very hot topic. Many comments throughout many websites I read, are like: I don‘t spend $2000 for HL:VR.

    There seem to be some misconceptions about VR on many levels. Valve has done a small miracle nonetheless!

    • Caven

      It’s especially funny on videogame websites where the typical reader could be reasonably assumed to have a current gaming PC anyway. I was just reading an article that was complaining about how “only” 37% of the top 50 GPUs on Steam are VR-ready. But that math still works out to about 25 million users on Steam. On top of that, modern non-VR AAA titles are targeting the same GPUs recommended for Half-Life: Alyx, so it’s not like people would likely have been off the hook if it were releasing as a non-VR title instead. To listen to some of those people talk, you’d think the last time they bought a GPU was to play Half-Life 2.

      • VR4EVER

        Thats exactly the point: back in the day, you also needed to upgrade or buy a gaming PC to play HL2. History repeats itself.

        • brandon9271

          Exactly! Throughout gaming history there was a “killer app” that made you buy a console, buy a new PC or upgrade your GPU. Gaming used to be bleeding edge. Doom made use ditch the 286, Quake forced people to buy a Pentium, Quake 3 forced folks to buy a GPU, etc. I upgraded to play HL2 back in the day. It’s what pushed the industry forward. I miss those days.

  • plrr

    I think there is a factual error in the article. The part about VR growing slowly…

    • sfmike

      Unfortunately the money men in the tech and gaming industry are about ready to write VR off as the billions of dollars that those investment con-men told them would be flowing from VR by now haven’t materialized. Why do you think Oculus has lost it’s upper management as FB cuts back funds. Let’s hope Valve can save VR from the same axe that the tech industry used on 3D TV to make it disappear.

      • G-man

        oculus lost its founders because they disagree with facebooks vision of making the cheapest headset. not financial cutbacks. they already paid them billions fir the company

  • Liam Mulligan

    Focus energy on those that support the technology, the others will tag along, even if i have to drag a few reluctant people, so be it. I face this everyday in education working in VR and the energy expended on the passionate or open minded individuals pays huge dividends. Invest the time in mastery of development, making great content, process modulization reuse and efficiency. Less time whinging and look at what we have available to us. VR is not at shiny impress people sales pitch status anymore, you come to play, if you cant afford you are not being creative enough to find how you can. Valve have developed this amazing experience a thing we only dreamed about back in 2013 with our dk1’s, we are damn spoilt and should be grateful to be alive in such a time.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    The way oculus hit the scene and facebook purchasing for billions.Leading to many startup companies.Hope big game aaa titles and companies get up to speed and redo all their old titles in native vr.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    If your really desperate for a vr fix then ps4-psvr is dirt cheap.Go used from gamestop or a pawn and its even cheaper.

    • Ellie 187

      buying used saves….your soul

  • Alex

    The Valve is now open !

  • J.C.

    The game’s discussion board is packed with “why only VR???” threads. This article is precisely why: because VR hasn’t had a title that people desperately want on name recognition alone. VR needs this so badly, because the general gaming public ignores VR and thinks it’s in the same state it was when it first launched. It’s no longer just tech demos from people learning how to use it, there are quite a few top notch games for it.

    • Tharny

      All the misconseptions on the Steam forums is just amazing. Thing is that when those people are told facts about VR they dont listen at all and treat vr users as liers.

  • aasdfa

    I’ms so excited for this and vr. people cna whine all they want, but once this comes out theyll see what we all see. Theyll get vr just for this and then branch out into all other games. we will finally have full servers!!!! yesssss as well with all the new players, game dev in vr becomes a ton more viable financially so we will see more games. its all a win, especially for all of us who bought in early in support and now we get to sit back and watch everything just develope for us

  • Immersive Computing

    How much do those sell for these days?

    • Jerald Doerr

      499.99!!!!! But it’s a antique!

  • Ghosty

    “You son of a bitch, I’m in!” lol

  • I think one thing a lot of gamers tend to overlook is the simple fact that Valve just wasn’t creatively inspired enough to bring another Half-Life game to traditional platforms. This game would essentially not exist if it weren’t for VR and the technical and creative challenges it presents.

  • Rupert Jung

    It’s about time. I’m tired to always read the same “VR has no gamez!” over and over again. When I ask them about Lone Echo, Asgard’s Wrath, Stormland etc. they never heared from them. VR has really a marketing problem.

    • DM

      Vr haters don’t want to know about VR, they want something to dislike, and an audience they can troll. They are like the console guys who say PC is trash coz it costs £2000 for something that plays no better than their xbox. They are afraid if they get educated, they have no arguments left to troll with.

      • Ellie 187

        lol plays no better than an xbox?? I want some of the crack they are smoking…. higher refresh gaming destroys anything a console can do

        Thing is about PC gaming is PC games are far far cheaper… brand new xbox game, $60 … same game on PC is $20-$30

        so yes higher up front cost but once you have it, it works out to roughly the same thing as you save 50% to 60% on games

      • Lulu Vi Britannia

        Ironically, you’re the one who acts like a hater, buddy. No one ever said PC was trash, only that it was expensive, which is an undeniable fact.
        You want to play recent PC games, it’s close to 1000$ for a PC that will be outdated two years later.
        You want to play recent console games, it’s less than 500$ the console and you can play every game to ever be released on it.

        (No, I am not a console player, I gave up on it a long time ago already.)

    • Nice

      Actually those games you mentioned are Oculus exclusives and as recently as about a 2 months ago only one of them was out and it had about 5h of gameplay with no replayability for afair $30, so that’s kind of bad example. IMO some sim racing game that is non-exclusive to Oculus or an adventure game like Time Transit would be a good example

  • The Bard

    It shows me 8m views still. How do you see over 10m ?

    • benz145

      Cumulative views from multiple versions of the trailer hosted on different channels and platforms. We only counted views on the trailer itself, not any reaction videos or analyses.

  • Valve has done really a lot to spread the voice about VR. Now every gamer has to face the fact that VR exists and it is something cool, so cool that even Valve decided to take back the Half-Life IP only for it!

  • Nice

    Maybe that would pressure Google to fix their broken YouTube VR. It’s a shame that there is sooo much unaccesible content for VR on YT. It:s better in Cardboard than on Rift…