Although Valve has buddied up with HTC to create the Vive as SteamVR’s flagship headset, the company has made it clear that they want SteamVR to be headset agnostic. Now Steam is identifying Rift users and prompting them to install SteamVR.

The Oculus Rift DK2 was actually one of the first headsets to see support for SteamVR—back before Valve partnered up with HTC, a time when Oculus and Valve were collaborating closely. But after a couple of key employees jumped shipped for Oculus, which was subsequently acquired by Facebook, the close relationship between Oculus and Valve seemed to largely evaporate.

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So when Valve revealed in early 2015 that it was partnering with HTC to create the Vive headset for SteamVR, it wasn’t clear how the platform would handle other headsets, or what would come of the early Oculus Rift support.

Despite that newfound competitive position between Oculus and Valve, the company has continued to update SteamVR to support the Rift.


Among the latest updates to Steam itself is a new prompt that pops up the moment you plug an Oculus Rift into your computer (assuming Steam is running) which directs users to install SteamVR. This happens for both the consumer Rift and the older DK2.

SteamVR is a self-contained version of Steam which can be accessed with a VR headset, allowing users to do pretty much everything they can do on the desktop version of the software, including browsing the store, installing, and launching games.

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See Also: Oculus Rift Review – Prologue to a New Reality

Since this week’s launch of the Oculus Rift and the latest Oculus 1.3 runtime, Valve has updated SteamVR to continue to allow both the DK2 and the new consumer Rift to work through the platform. Follow these instructions to get your Rift working with SteamVR.

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For Oculus’ part, they say they’re interested in allowing other headsets to work with Oculus Home, but unlike Valve—which supplies the OpenVR SDK to allow any headset maker to hook into SteamVR—they are not leaving the door open.

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey last commented late last year on the company’s stance toward integrating other headsets into the Oculus platform:

“The issue is people who expect us to officially support all headsets on a platform level with some kind of universal Oculus SDK, which is not going to happen anytime soon,” he wrote on Reddit. “We do want to work with other hardware vendors, but not at the expense of our own launch, and certainly not in a way that leads to developing for the lowest common denominator – there are a lot of shitty headsets coming, a handful of good ones, and a handful that may never even hit the market. Keep in mind that support for the good ones requires cooperation from both parties, which is sometimes impossible for reasons outside our control.”

Additional reporting by Scott Hayden

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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."
  • Bob

    “there are a lot of shitty headsets coming”

    Hilarious. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    • DiGiCT Ltd

      Yes it is, but unfortunately true.
      Also some games will be shitty as VR is hot they just try to get a piece of the pie in that way, it’s sad but same happens on other markets.

    • Kraufthauser

      Google Cardboard is great toiletpaper :)

      • Zapin

        It is also responsible for giving hundreds of thousands of people at least some idea of what VR is all about for next to nothing. It is not the refined experience that the Vive or Rift offer but it does give a taste of what the potential is.

  • Zobeid

    This fits with my hypothesis. . . Valve are less concerned about which headset you’re using, as long as you buy your games through Steam. The platform battle is coming — but the headsets aren’t the platforms. The stores are the platforms.

    • dextrovix

      Indeed – my thoughts exactly. And whilst I am buying into both camps initially, the fact that I already have a large Steam collection leans me towards supporting SteamVR, although at present without native support and having to go through the Oculus SDK first, an Oculus headset delivers a lower framerate for a SteamVR title. I wish no ill will towards Palmer Luckey and co because the realisation of consumer VR has happened because of their innovations, but Steam is trying to be HMD-agnostic which the Oculus Store is not. However, I don’t blame Oculus for that- like Zeobeid says above, Oculus will ultimately need to make money from software, not hardware sales.

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        The software store makes more sales as you probably buy more items.
        The HMD you only buy once, although they also make plenty of profit on it.
        There is a similar HMD as oculus , just check OSVR, its a dev kit version for $300 but it comes very near the specs.
        Razor is in it’s development, not sure it will ever become a consumer product, but its 100% open source, on their site is the entire tech data so you could eventually make it yourself in a way :)
        Mass production is the key point to make it cheap, occulus production cost might be $100-$200 as i know Iphones are around $100 production cost so it even might be over estimated.

        • realtrisk

          Actually, if you’d been paying the least bit of attention to VR news, you’d know that Rift is being sold at a substantial loss for Oculus, so it can be assumed Vive is as well, considering the equality of specs.

          And OSVR’s specifications aren’t even close to CV1/Vive.

          • Zapin

            It is the low or negative profit for the hardware sales that shows that it is in everybody’s best interest to open up the software sales to all the hardware available. Facebook can still get their cut, developers get to sell to everybody who wants the product and Facebook gets to sign on Vive, OSVR etc users into their Social information gathering enterprises.

      • Bryan Ischo

        Why do you say ” an Oculus headset delivers a lower framerate for a SteamVR title”? What basis do you have for this claim?

        • dextrovix

          Well documented on the Elite Dangerous forums. Because SteamVR has to talk to the Oculus SDK first rather than natively, it takes longer to render a frame. We had to use this method before the recent change by Frontier to support the latest Oculus SDK, thus it is no longer an issue for that game. However, this is still the case for titles that will use SteamVR, because despite Valve wanting to support the Rift directly, we will have to open the Oculus Store first so the headset actives, before SteamVR can then see it.

        • Raphael

          SteamVR is vastly inefficient as any Elite Dangerous VR player will testify. Valve also managed to break HL2 and TF2 with VR at least for Oculus.

    • Arv

      Yup, and this is precisely why Steam aren’t playing nice with cooperating with Oculus to bring Vive headsets to the Oculus Store. Their basically not giving Oculus access to OpenSDK. The name means Open LICENCE not Open SOURCE unfortunately.

      • Nammi_namm

        Oculus insists that they must get inside know-how on how the hardware works so they can make their own implementation in the OculusSDK, obviously this is like telling your competitor all of your secrets. Oculus would refuse if Valve would ask them the same questions. This is not one sided.

        Only thing Valve is doing is they’re linking to the OculusSDK through OpenVR, wheras Oculus refuses to link to OpenVR through the OculusSDK.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        uhh, BS, Oculus Store accepts any entry to the Oculus Store as long as it at least supports the OculusSDK, no OculusSDK support? no Oculus Store.. But you can have SteamVR support too if you want to..

        • Arv

          No. You can’t have SteamVR support in the Oculus Store. You can currently only have Steam games supporting both headsets. And it’s in Valve’s interest to keep things this way because they don’t want Vive owners buying games from the Oculus Store and lose their 30%.

      • brandon9271

        Whether or not software supports the Vive or the Rift is entirely up to the software’s developer,correct? I mean, if a games supports both HMDs then it could potentially be for sale on Steam and Oculus store simultaneously, right? I’m not really sure what Oculus or Valve could do to make it easier. I think most devs are going to support both in order to maximise sales. Oculus isn’t going to let the exclusive games they’re funding support the Vive though. That would be bad for business.

    • tparisi

      Spot-on @Zobeid:disqus

  • NeoTechni

    It also prompted me when I plugged in my DK1 (still waiting for my kickstarter CV1 >:| )

    • realtrisk

      What??? They haven’t even filled Kickstarter orders yet??? What country are you from?

      • NeoTechni

        Nope. Backer #1,000, from Canada, still hasn’t shipped

        • realtrisk

          That’s friggin’ ridiculous! I thought AT LEAST all the kickstarter backers had theirs! And still not a peep out of them. Right now I’m SO glad I pre-ordered a Vive… I’m in the first batch, so I’m looking forward to next week, and I’ve all but given up on being excited for Rift. I wanted both, but now it’s tempting to just cancel the way they are jerking us around. All the launch games that are exclusives don’t interest me anyway.

          Meanwhile, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that they gave Angry Joe one, though he has never had the least bit to do with evangelizing Rift or the VR scene in general. I find that particularly galling. I wouldn’t mind if it was Markiplier, he convinced me and many others to buy a DK1 and deserves a free Rift for it… nor would I mind Jacksepticeye, he’s been talking up VR for years… but Angry friggin’ Joe? Must be nice to be a celebrity and have crap handed to you on the desperate hope that you’ll give out a free plug while everyone else who loved and believed in the product and supported it for years and helped make it what it is today is left out with nary a word. @^$# you, Oculus.

          • NeoTechni

            I was pretty pissed gawker got one before me.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I had this promp a few weeks ago already on my DK2.

  • Kev Bean

    They have been doing this for quite a while. I have a DK1 and its been like this for months lol.

  • Dragonbait

    Steam is the better choice for Rifters to use for 3 reasons:
    1. Oculus give developers options for free keys, so many Steam purchases will get you a free Oculus key.
    2. Future access to your purchased games is more likely if you change your VR system of choice on Steam due to its agnostic attitude to which VR system you use, will you still be able to use your Oculus purchases if next gen you buy an HTC or any other system?
    3. Refunds if you don’t like a game.

    • Zapin

      Mostly it is an argument that if the same title is available on each store then it may be in your best interest to buy from the one compatible with the most hardware. You would also have to inform yourself about whether that title takes a performance hit when you buy it from steam as opposed to directly from the OStore.

      • Dragonbait

        There’s no performance difference at all, it’s the same game, just downloaded from a different place.

  • Jerald Doerr

    Wonder if cell phones will be next… that would be tremendous for VR!