“We make games, Steam, and hardware. Join us,” says the first line of Valve’s newly redesigned website—in big bold red letters—bringing its look more in line with 2010’s design language than the previous version that screamed ‘late 2000’s’. Along with the new look is a clear emphasis on hardware as a central part of Valve’s future, with VR positioned as the cutting edge of the company’s work.
For those not paying attention to the emergence of consumer VR over the last five years, you should know that Valve has played a key role. While HTC makes and markets the Vive, many of the headset’s foundational technologies were created at Valve. Meanwhile, the company’s open SteamVR platform has become a leading marketplace for VR content, serving the Vive, Rift, and other headsets too.
And while the company has seemed at times gung-ho about VR, their infamous ‘done when it’s ready’ approach has perhaps made it seem from the outside like their interest in the tech is waning, especially after the departure of one of Valve’s most publicly active VR evangelists, Chet Faliszek, back in 2017. And then there’s the hotly anticipated ‘Knuckles’ controllers, which the company showed off more than a year and a half ago but has yet to launch.
But Valve’s revamped website, launched this week, offers fresh insight into the company’s focus and mission, including their dedication to building hardware, VR and otherwise. Seen on the new About page, a large section dedicated to the company’s hardware efforts highlights the Steam Controller and Steam Link. Below that we get a strong hint that the company sees VR as a central tenet of their future hardware work; a section is headlined: ‘We’re just getting started,’ and is accompanied by a GIF showing a progression of prototype VR hardware leading up to the Vive, including images of Valve head Gabe Newell wearing a particularly massive prototype that we haven’t seen before.
Beyond hardware, there’s also those three VR games the company has said they’re building, but has remained extremely tight-lipped on since. Those ostensibly get a mention too. Closer to the top of the page the company deservedly touts their blockbuster game library, and teases: “We have some new games in the works, too. A couple have been announced, while others remain top secret.”
The landing page of the site puts hiring front and center, and if you dig into the available roles, you won’t get far before bumping into some directly involving the company’s ongoing VR research and development.
In the background of the main page, VR is treated prominently in a video montage of the companies endeavors—we see a shot of what looks like a playtest session with a user wearing a Vive Pro and using Valve’s Knuckles controllers.
Another clip with some funny looking spinning discs appears to be a motion tracking test in front of a SteamVR Tracking base station.
There’s hardly a place you can go on the company’s new site without seeing some mention of VR. Even browsing through the site’s ‘People’ page, you’ll find plenty of bios mentioning work on VR.
While Valve has traditionally been a software company, they have in recent years become a quite competent hardware creator too, and their revamped website makes it clear that they believe this is their long-term future. But they hope to do more than just make hardware and software—they want to meld their design processes to create something more than the sum of its parts, as Valve head Gabe Newell said recently at a press gathering, reported by PC Gamer:
“We’ve always been a little bit jealous of companies like Nintendo,” Newell said. “When Miyamoto is sitting down and thinking about the next version of Zelda or Mario, he’s thinking what is the controller going to look like, what sort of graphics and other capabilities. He can introduce new capabilities like motion input because he controls both of those things. And he can make the hardware look as good as possible because he’s designing the software at the same time that’s really going to take advantage of it. So that is something we’ve been jealous of, and that’s something that you’ll see us taking advantage of subsequently.”
Valve is in the rather unique position of being willing to delay or cancel projects rather than release something that doesn’t meet their internal quality bar. And while that sometimes means they take their time compared to others, it also means that what comes out the end has a good chance of being a hit. With that in mind, Valve’s reaffirmed commitment to VR only heightens my belief that they have a better shot than anyone else at creating VR’s first true killer app.