Microsoft today announced that Windows VR headsets will be able to play SteamVR content.

Microsoft is working toward the launch of consumer Windows VR headsets coming this holiday, and today co-announced with Valve that the headsets will support SteamVR content.

“The introduction of Windows Mixed Reality headsets is big step forward for VR. Working with Microsoft to include SteamVR compatibility with these devices is also a big step in growing VR as an open platform for developers and consumers,” said Valve’s Joe Ludwig. “With a broad range of hardware options available from leading PC manufacturers, the Steam community will have more choice than ever to experience the amazing potential of VR.”

Microsoft isn’t offering specifics about SteamVR compatibility with Windows VR headsets just yet, but our expectation is that the companies are collaborating on an OpenVR driver for the Windows VR headsets, which allows them to hook into SteamVR content in a similar way to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Valve created OpenVR specifically as an open pathway for other headsets to access SteamVR content; if their efforts have been successful, developers of SteamVR content should need to do only very little (if anything) in order for their apps to be compatible with Windows VR headsets.

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Microsoft is planning to sell so called “Mixed Reality” (their name for AR and VR) content from their own store, but since they’re essentially starting from scratch, Steam makes for a useful stopgap to ensure customers of the forthcoming Windows VR headsets have plenty to do in the meantime.

And while there’s a range of great VR applications on Steam, owners of Windows VR headsets will surely be wondering whether or not they can access games and apps that are exclusive to the Oculus store. Right now it seems unlikely that Oculus will officially support Windows VR headsets, however the company did recently say that in the future they may offer an open door for third-party headsets that want to access their store.

It’s also possible (maybe even likely) that we’ll see an unofficial workaround that makes Windows VR headsets compatible with Oculus content. Vive users can currently play Oculus games using the Revive workaround, which could provide a framework for doing the same with Windows VR headsets, especially if they have a working OpenVR driver.

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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."
  • NooYawker

    Was there any question Steam would support Windows VR hardware. Is there any question Steam VR will support any VR hardware that comes down the line? They make profits by selling games.. making some, but mostly selling them. Restricting access only hurts them.

    • There was, Microsoft did not support steam until this announcement. If you got the developer version you couldn’t run any steam games.

      • bschuler

        Right, I have no proof and all speculation, but I feel this was a recent decision change. I for one, am not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Just hope Windows store, etc.. will be open to other HMDs as well. We don’t need any more exclusive stores.

      • NooYawker

        I’m sure MS would love to have it exclusive to their own store so they can make money from the hardware as well as selling software.. but reality has a way of exerting itself. No one would go for that.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          Except, it’s not MS that’s selling the hardware… It’s a bit like with Valve and HTC Vive, HTC sells the hardware, not Valve..

      • Zomby2D

        Just like Oculus doesn’t support Steam. But that didn’t prevent Valve from building OpenVR drivers to support it.

    • Adrian Meredith

      yeah because microsoft are a major competitor to steam and they want windows store to take over

      • NooYawker

        I don’t think anyone can say the windows store is a major competitor to steam. They may have hoped to become one but they’re not even a minor competitor to steam.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        But then again, MS can’t do shit about Valve if they build SteamVR support without MS approval..

    • guest

      Nope, they almost live next door to them. MR means Microsoft Reality, that is, wipe your disk and reinstall an older version of Visual Studio once again because the latest one was too buggy!

      P.S. The above post disappeared yesterday. Hope that Microsoft does not have that much power (or Ben’s now on their payroll).

  • This is a huge step. By supporting steam this means that many more headset will be released from large manufacturers. Now people will be able to buy the windows headset and buy the steam knuckle controllers with the trackers separately. Use steam knuckle controllers with Windows headset. It’s going to be amazing (and expensive)

    • Walextheone

      Even if possible it’d be strange to have a inside out tracking system out of the box and then buy an expensive tracking system. Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy a Rift/Vive instead in that case?

      • RFC_VR

        What does this mean for SteamVR lighthouse tracking? If Windows 10 HMD (inside out tracking) become dominant…and running Steam

        • Walextheone

          Yeah he he that’s an interesting thought. I’ll guess the best solution for the future would be inside out + wireless. Cut all cords completly. What we see now and what we have seen in the past are probably mere interim solution to the tracking problem. However the industry is still young, maby we will see a pleathora of solutions instead of a single catch all tracking solution.

          • RFC_VR

            Yes I’m sure with time it will become standardized like mains electricity or fibre broadband.

            Like any young industry players will come and go before standardisation takes place?

        • Adrian Meredith

          read the other article… lighthouse tracking is still the gold standard by some way.

          • RFC_VR

            So was Betamax but it fell aside to a technically inferior but more widely supported standard (VHS). Best product doesn’t always become most popular

          • The beautiful things about computer vision tracking is that it will continue to get better, and available in smaller devices regardless of it success in VR. All the AR companies and all the companies that use computer vision daily will continue to push the technology until it can come close to human vision for its applications in other non-VR fields. However, tracker based tracking has very little use and development outside the VR industry for consumer use. All tracking technology is mostly built for large scale tracking and not consumer use. CV tracking is also cheaper in price and allows to bring more elements and real world interactions into VR that would require something like the Vive tracker other wise in order to achieve similar result. It is the future. I agree with RFC@ProofVRlab that this is the type of technology that is simply more practical and more handy in every day consumer use and will therefore become a standard.

          • RFC_VR

            For commercial use (industrial and arcade gaming) the tracking accuracy over a large volume goes to lighthouse tracking no doubt. I’ve run ‘roomscale plus’ experiments on Vive’s in industrial premises where I could place lighthouse 9 metres diagonally apart.

            For domestic use? At home with 3×2.2M maximum playspace then machine vision with inside out tracking is probably ideal for me, if it’s cheaper, reliable and has no fuss setup.

      • You are right but there are multiple reason why you would want to consider this. These headsets would be built by major manufacturers like dell, acer and asus so we can expect higher resolution high end version in the future. While the current headsets have very limited plans for improvements. Also, let us not forget that these would be the highest resolution headsets you can buy when they are released (unless LG headset is released) and on top of that they would work better for windows regular tasks given that Microsoft itself its supporting unlike current alternatives such as big screen and virtual desktop.

    • Spuzzum

      I just watched a video where the user said he was able to use his Vive controllers with the Windows MR headset using Revive. But seeing how the Vive controllers are $130.. each, and the sensors are $135.. each, it’s cheaper to just buy the entire bundle including the headset. But.. seeing how you’re emulating the Rift in Revive, and the Windows headsets already register and work in Revive.. then you should be able to use Touch controllers and sensors, pairing and calibrating them in the Oculus set up screen. They tell you to skip that step when using the Vive or Windows headsets, but I’m pretty sure it would work with the actual Oculus sensors and controllers. Then again.. buying the Vive outright, you’d be able to upgrade to the Knuckles controllers when they’re released publicly. It would also be less wiring running around the room. :P

  • David Herrington

    Supporting Steam in Windows 10 is only half of what Microsoft plans to do with these headsets. My prediction is that Xbox One X will support Windows VR headsets and motion controllers! The release dates are too close to be coincidental!

    • Andrew Jakobs

      The said they won’t do anything with VR on release with the One X, but they never said they won’t after release, and ofcourse they will support them on the One X, might even with the One S.

    • GrangerFX

      I was ready to pull the trigger on the One X preorder but then they said it would not support VR. That was the only reason I was interested in the One X as the games look like crap.

  • DaKangaroo

    Lets not forget what a VR Headset is.

    It’s a monitor*.

    (*that you wear on your face with a couple of extra sensors inside of it)

    There’s no need for VR headsets to only work with specific VR stores or other such silliness. We wouldn’t let LG make a monitor that only plays games from Windows Store or Dell make a monitor that only plays games from Steam.

    Besides, locking things done will hurt the VR market. We should expect and demand from companies to have this kind of cross compatibility.

    • RFC_VR

      Yes. It’s definitely how it must become to work as a widespread consumer product.

      For home cinema, I have a Sony BD player linked to LG TV into Pioneer AV amp and Tannoy speakers. Great example of cross brand compatibility.

    • Lucidfeuer

      Exactly. More than a monitor, this is a sensory and interactional interface aimed at slowly replacing screens and keyboard/controllers as our means of interaction with computers/intellectual technologies.

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea
    • Guest

      LOL, now go subtitle Jabba the Hut!