With the highly anticipated launch of Half-Life: Alyx just days away, it feels like an appropriate time to look at Valve’s unique commitment to ensuring that SteamVR remains a hardware-agnostic platform for VR content, and how the company has taken a near-opposite approach to Oculus which has built a closed ecosystem only compatible with the company’s own headsets.

Many Oculus Rift and even Quest owners know well that SteamVR officially supports both headsets seamlessly. But few realize that without Valve’s explicit support, this wouldn’t be the case.

While other headset makers and platforms like HTC, Windows VR, and Pimax all build and maintain their own software integrations to make their headsets work with SteamVR, it’s Valve, not Oculus, which develops and maintains the official integration which allows the Rift and Quest to work on the platform.

Image courtesy Valve

I spoke with a source with direct knowledge of the Oculus SteamVR integration who told me that the integration is solely the work of Valve. They also said that on multiple occasions Valve offered for Oculus to take over the integration but never received a response.

Keeping the integration updated and bug-free is a collaborative effort at Valve, the source said, where developers who spot bugs or read about them from users online would often take it upon themselves to fix the issues or update the integration with new versions of the Oculus runtime to enable new features like Oculus Dash.

Without Valve spending its own time and development resources on building, maintaining, and updating the integration, Oculus’ headsets wouldn’t be officially compatible with SteamVR, and Oculus users wouldn’t have a official pathway to play Half-Life: Alyx or any of the platform’s content.

While community-built tools could create an unofficial pathway, VR developers rely on Valve’s commitment to keep the Oculus integration stable and active for the foreseeable future so that they can count on access to a much larger customer base; Oculus headsets now make up more than 50% of VR headsets in use on Steam.

Now I’m not saying that a closed ecosystem like Oculus’—which is only officially compatible with the company’s own headsets—is invalid or evil. But I do think that Valve’s unique commitment to fostering an open VR platform is a boon for the industry as a whole.

While Oculus has never made any changes to their runtime that sought to block the Oculus SteamVR integration, the company attempted the inverse; when community developers first built the unofficial ‘Revive’ mod (which makes SteamVR headsets like Vive and Windows VR work with Oculus content), Oculus actively attempted to block the mod from working. Eventually they reneged, and have tacitly tolerated the mod since.

SEE ALSO
Platform Politics: Inside the Oculus and 'Revive' Dilemma

Valve, on the other hand, has created a platform which serves to enable VR more than control it, by not acting as a gatekeeper to content or hardware that operates on the platform.

You can see this commitment in many of the moves Valve has made with SteamVR over the years, right down to the way that they ensured that Half-Life: Alyx is tested and functional with all SteamVR compatible headsets—including building the official integration for Rift and Quest—even going as far as directly advertising competitor’s products on the game’s website right alongside their own Index headset.

While Oculus had said that it would open its tracking system to third-party accessories and “go big” on allowing third-party headsets onto its platform, neither have come to pass by 2020.

Meanwhile, anyone could build and launch a new VR headset tomorrow by tapping into Valve’s OpenVR API, and make the headset compatible with SteamVR and all of its content without so much as an email to Valve.

The open nature of SteamVR Tracking—in which Valve also takes a hands-off approach—means that companies can build interesting accessories that leverage the existing, high-performance tracking system used by many headsets. That’s enabled things like Logitech’s VR Ink stylus, the Vive Cosmos External Tracking Faceplate, the Vive Tracker, the Tactical Haptics controller, and even leaves the door open for academic and DIY experimentation.

Oculus’ tracking system, on the other hand, has remained closed to third-party usage, preventing things like third-party controller or other tracked accessories from being used with the company’s headsets.

After being acquired by Facebook, the Oculus playbook has been all about building and maintaining control of a closed VR ecosystem. This strategy was laid bare in emails by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who said the goal of acquiring Oculus was “not only to win in VR / AR, but also to accelerate its arrival.”

But, it isn’t Valve or any of the other VR players which Facebook perceives as the rivals against which it hopes to “win,” rather, it’s the other big tech giants. As a company whose users access apps and services in a large part through mobile phones running iOS or Android, Facebook is beholden to the whims of Apple and Google. Owning both the platform and the key apps means deep control over an ecosystem, and when it comes to AR and VR, Zuckerberg wants that power in Facebook’s hands rather than its competitors.

“From a timing perspective, we are better off the sooner the [VR / AR] becomes ubiquitous and the shorter the time we exist in a primarily mobile world dominated by Google and Apple. The shorter this time, the less our community is vulnerable to the actions of others,” Zuckerberg wrote. “[…] By accelerating this space, we are de-risking our vulnerability on mobile.”

SEE ALSO
Valve's Gabe Newell: 'We're excited to return to Half-Life, VR has energized the studio'

Valve, on the other hand, has taken unprecedented steps—right down to maintaining support for a competitor’s headset—to ensure its platform remains an enabler of the VR ecosystem. Ironically, while Oculus has done the opposite in an effort to carve out its walled garden, it’s Valve’s open approach which has so far kept the company as a major player in the VR space.

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  • Toothlover

    I have Rift S and I pre-ordered HLA. I hope it lives up to its hype.

  • Stephen Olsen

    They make money off of the steam store. It’s in their best interest to support oculus, if they didn’t they would lose money. Why do people always make it seem like Steam is a charity? You would think they just give away games by the way everyone praises it. They are Best Buy, they sell it all. Oculus is Apple, they want their own store. It’s ok to have both.

  • Man, that’s a lot of talking down Oculus, even with the “not evil” statement in there. I’ll admit Valve’s offerings are enticing, but until a headset from Valve enters the 400$ price point Facebook really has them beat there, and I probably won’t be making the switch til then, unless I get lucky.

    • mirak

      you will lose a lot more than 400$ when you can’t play Oculus exclusive anymore on the non Oculus headset you will buy someday.

      • Brian Brown

        I play Oculus exclusives all the time, and I use a Valve Index.

        • mirak

          don’t do that

        • Ad

          He’s saying Oculus will kill Revive one day which is much more likely if they have a monopoly.

    • JakeDunnegan

      This I agree with – I’d like to see another player (Valve, or whoever) make something as good as the Oculus at the Oculus price. It’s not like I own stock in FB! ;)

      And, I really appreciate that Valve is making sure the Steam games are compatible with my Oculus, and I reward them by using their store (to future proof my game purchases!) with every game I can.

    • Ad

      In an article about market ethics, why is everyone saying “the cost is nice so nope.”

  • mirak

    It is evil.

  • NooYawker

    Valve is all about games, they stay a private company so they can do what they want. They should have bought Oculus since they gave them so much tech in the first place.

    • mirak

      They could have bought it for nothing in the beginning.
      But maybe they were bored at Valve and needed to create themselves a competitor xD

      • Immersive Computing

        My limited understanding is Valve originally wanted Oculus doing hardware whilst they operated the storefront?

        • mirak

          Depends at what moment, but the idea of having their own store front must come from Palmer Luckey then.

    • Ad

      They were the original partner of Oculus before the Facebook purchase. Half Life 2 still has the DK1 “VR Mode.”

      • Immersive Computing

        Zuckerberg trying the “Steam” VR room Valve had installed at Oculus, a clone of the room at Valve HQ

        Apparently this demo led to the Oculus purchase, though the tech was actually Valve.

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6db90fd39b44322460ce4b185043fb7ad282f3918555ab329697e6c2ccdec99b.jpg

        • Ad

          That’s really funny. At the end of the day Zuck wants to own an entire computing platform in a way that Apple could never have hoped to achieve, and Valve wants to reinvigorate their company as a developer and gaming industry player with VR. You don’t have to love Valve, but Facebook is going to eat all of us and some people are cheering them on because they’ve never heard of how a monopoly works.

          • Immersive Computing

            The funniest and most embarrassing thing was the realisation the tech he had “bought” after being convinced by the demo actually belonged to Valve?

            Alan Yates (Valve): “Every core feature of both the Rift and Vive HMDs are directly derived from Valve’s research program. Oculus has their own [camera-based] tracking implementation and frensel lens design but the CV1 is otherwise a direct copy of the architecture of the 1080p Steam Sight prototype Valve lent Oculus when we installed a copy of the “Valve Room” at their headquarters. I would call Oculus the first SteamVR licensee, but history will likely record a somewhat different term for it.”

          • Allan Hambrick

            This is commonly stated but entirely false and if you actually believe that Alan Yates was talking out his own ass, more the fool you. Surprised Valve fanboys are still repeating this nonsense. Oculus/Palmer/Carmack are the original first evangelists and their tech was the foundation of all all modern headsets. Everything else has been essentially derivitave. I love Valve and SteamVR but only a weak minded, desperate fool would try to shift the credit for the existence of VR to Valve.

    • kontis

      No, GabeN talked about these kind of things in the past. He doesn’t want to make any hardware, because it doesn’t make money in most cases (rare exceptions like Apple and to a smaller extent Nintendo). He wanted to give all the tech to oculus and just let them make good hardware. But Oculus wasn’t stupid – they wanted a store front since the beginning (they talked about it a lot even before the acquisition).

      Index was not something Valve wanted to make. They just felt like they had no choice.

  • wheeler

    Finally someone says it like it is. Of course, despite how tame and careful the opinion expressed in this piece is, the defense force is showing up on cue.

    Can you imagine if the original Rift and the Rift S didn’t work with SteamVR at all? Or if Valve required that applications on Steam not include optional support for other VR platforms? (as FB requires of applications on the Oculus store) Nevermind FB users not getting to play the most ambitious Half-Life game ever–FB’s PCVR ambitions would have been Dead On Arrival and Valve would have the entire PCVR market to themselves. In addition, it’s quite possible that in such a world there would have been more SteamVR-tracking compatible options in the PCVR hardware market as such companies wouldn’t have had to somehow reap hardware profits while competing with a mega corporation selling at near cost.

    You always hear hand wavy arguments about how all of Valve actions amount to the most optimal self-interested approach they could have ever taken anyway, but how would a competing Oculus store being DOA and the potential for a flourishing SteamVR-tracking compatible hardware ecosystem *not* have been a more favorable outcome for Valve than the current situation? Valve could have done a ton of damage by simply neglecting their competitors. Instead what we have seen is that they have actively gone out of their way to support that competitor since the very beginning.

    I agree that there is no reason to think either company is essentially “good” or “evil”. But it would be absolutely foolish to ignore the motivations underpinning the interest these companies have in VR, how that will affect their current and future business decisions, and whether or not that is compatible with what you value as a PC gamer.

    • J.C.

      This is why I refuse to use ReVive. I have an OG Vive, and is love to play Oculus’ games. But they refuse to directly support my headset, so I’m not about to be so stupid as to support their ecosystem. Every penny that non-Oculus headset owners give to Oculus just pushes back the time when they’ll support all VR headsets.

      Their headsets are cheap, and quite good. If they’d had motion controllers out the gate like Vive did, I probably would have a CV1 instead. I don’t begrudge those with Oculus headsets, they’re a good choice and the oculus store has a lot of great exclusives. They just don’t want my business and they’re quite clear about that.

      • Immersive Computing

        After Vive I had Rift CV1. I purchased some exclusive games from Oculus.

        Since going back to steamVR with Index, I won’t purchase any games from Oculus; Revive is no guarantee of compatability – most of my Oculus games work, performance takes a hit, some don’t work. I’m not going to risk spending $40 on an Oculus game that may/may not work.

        Until Oculus opens their store front to all PCVR headset, they won’t see any money from me, supporting an open ecosystem is more important to me, than playing a handful of Oculus exclusive games.

        PCVR is a small market, exclusives locked to a store/headset just fragment the market…

      • mirak

        I just don’t see why I would pay for a game that is not supported and could break for no reason.

        • 0x

          Just adding a +1 and nod of agreement to the choice not to buy Oculus exclusives to play through ReVive. They are not supporting me as a consumer, or the VR ecosystem in general. Why would I want to support them?

    • Will Cho

      I don’t really see a problem with what FB is doing and Valve. Sure, FB has closed store while Valve is open yet if Valve decides to close the store to Oculus headsets but support WMR and HTC, they miss out on over 50% of VR market. Since Rift S/Quest is value(compared to other headsets(not including wmr)), more people will consume VR and that’s beneficial for both Valve and FB.
      If FB wasn’t so aggressive with VR or never invested into it, I wonder where we would be right now in terms of VR adoption and research. We would never know but I thing it did more good than bad. Now we have to live with it.

      • naffgeek

        It’s much easier to say that when you own an Oculus.

        I remember the outcry from Oculus users when fallout 4 wasn’t compatible at launch.

        The hypocrisy was unbelievable.

        • JakeDunnegan

          Hypocrisy? How many Oculus users were there really who were saying they simply loved how the Oculus store is closed off? I mean, seriously?

          I’m an Oculus user, I buy from the Steam store, and I can’t stand the fact that Oculus has exclusives. I don’t see how it helps anyone, and frankly, it’s anti-capitalistic. It’s why I hate Apple products, and refuse to buy them. For me, the Oculus is simply more affordable.

          Competition is good.

          • Ad

            And Facebook is anti competition.

  • Gamesplaychris

    Valve’s open VR platform is the reason I own a Rift S but buy all non Oculus exclusives on Steam. If I get a non Oculus headset in the future I am still good to go. No need to hope I can get games working via revive or anything just fire up SteamVR as normal with the new headset.

    • Stygian Ikazuchi

      Exactly. Only reason I have a Rift S is because it’s the cheapest GOOD headset and the only one I could easily afford. I intend on eventually upgrading to an Index but thats a long way off, and thanks to stuff like Revive the ONE Oculus Exclusive I have should work.

    • JakeDunnegan

      Same – I buy all non-exclusives on Steam (unless say, a sale at Christmas makes it too hard to resist…) but it leaves it open so that, if there’s an AR/VR set that comes up, I can use all my games there.

      Irony? It means Oculus is losing all that money I would/could have spent in their shop had they just been open system. And they also lose out on sales in their shop from people who don’t use Oculus!

      • NooYawker

        Facebook makes all it’s money off of your personal data. So losing money on hardware and software is just the price of doing business.

        • JakeDunnegan

          Since I’m on FB anyway, not sure how they’re going to make or lose any more money on my data. But I know for a fact that they lose money on my spending money in the Steam store. Hundreds of dollars at this point, which is undoubtedly a lot more than they’d make on the sale of very limited data.

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    Um.. Without Valve, Alyx wouldn’t be compatible with Rift but that’s mostly because without Valve there would be no Alyx in the first place, no Steam, no Half-Life franchise and generally the whole technological landscape would be vastly different.

    I understand what the article is trying to say, but the title itself could be improved upon :)

  • impurekind

    Because it makes sense for Valve to do this since Steam lives and breaths around being a platform that everyone is going to use to play their games, so getting support for Steam games on as many headsets as possible is only a good thing for Valve.

    • kuhpunkt

      Yes, it would be stupid by Valve to NOT do this. They sell software and it wouldn’t make any sense to exclude customers – which makes it weird that Oculus isn’t doing it. Why wouldn’t they want Index owners to buy the games from their store?

      • Immersive Computing

        I’d like to buy Oculus titles if they were guaranteed to work on my Index, have money would like to spend in their store if the compatability was assured.

      • impurekind

        This is not really about the games software but more about Steam as a platform and service. Valve is in some ways like Microsoft with Windows; it ideally wants and in some ways needs it’s software platform to be on as many platforms as possible. Think of it like this: Valve is a bit more like Microsoft, and Oculus is a bit more like Apple. Both approaches/models have their strengths and weakness, and once they’ve chosen the way they’re going to do things, they kinda just have to go all in with that way.

  • PJ

    The talk about ‘evil, good, walled gardens’ are all well and good, and even as a Oculus Rift owner I do agree with it, I don’t like Oculus as a company and I HATE anything and everything to do with Facebook, BUT the sticking point for me is, Oculus sell there headsets at £399, whist Valve sell there’s at £900, now as much as I dislike Oculus approach to the VR market as a whole, they get my money for the HMD, and sadly they offer some of very best VR titles and exclusives.. yes I’m aware that makes me hypocritical, but until Valve (HTC or anyone else) offer a best in class HMD and controllers for £400 then I’m afraid I’ll stay with Oculus..

    • kuhpunkt

      Yeah, but the Index is much better than the Oculus. You get what you pay for.

      • PJ

        You know, I’ve been lucky used almost every HMD and VR combination on the market, and whilst it hard to argue that the Index is better than the S, it’s certainly not £500 better, also, I’ll take the Oculus controllers over the Index controllers anyday

        • Brian Brown

          Wow.

          • PJ

            Difference of opinion on the Internet? Wow indeed…

        • kuhpunkt

          Well, the Index uses lighthouses, which offer the best tracking. That costs money. The Index also has amazing speakers, that are often compared to headphones that easily cost 200 or 300 bucks at least. Also a higher refresh rate with up to 144Hz instead of 80. That costs money, too.

          • Greyl

            But all those expensive features subjectively don’t feel like they’re worth £500 more.

            The £500 he saves can be spent on games, etc, and he won’t have a sense of buyers remorse, when Index is no longer technically the best VR headset on the market.

          • Brian Brown

            I take it you’re an Oculus owner. I have a Valve Index, and to me the features are more than worth it. Buyers remorse?

            When I bought an HTC Vive, it was the best on the market. I never had buyers remorse when it was eclipsed by other HMD’s.

            The Oculus Rift is a fantastic product, as is the Quest. I just find the community bending over backwards to defend the Oculus, and diminish other HMD’s.

            Lots of rationalizing.

          • JakeDunnegan

            I have an Oculus and you’re right – the idea of buyer’s remorse on this is kind of silly. Tech will always outpace older tech, it’s just how it works. Why get buyer’s remorse over it? Do I have remorse about my 1070Ti b/c the 2070 RTX came out? (Ooooh, ray tracing!) Uh, no.

            I do think the Index is out of my budget. But I don’t begrudge people who can afford it and enjoy it! Heck, I kinda envy them a little bit. ;)

          • Moe Curley

            Hey, don’t be bringing that non-biased stuff round here!

          • Greyl

            But that’s you; for him, £500 is not enough to warrant the marginally better features of the Index.

            You also have to factor in things like how the Index requires a dedicated room and a lot of set up in comparison to the Rift S. What the Rift S lacks in tracking compared to the Index, it makes up in by being more portable and plug and play experience. Maybe that’s also more attractive to him? It certainly is for me. I don’t know what Sony have planned, but I don’t think the VR industry is destined for relying on external sensors.

            Like I said, that extra £500 can go towards other things, like games or a new PC component, to make his VR experience even better. I would put that money towards my next GPU, personally.

            VR is still in its infancy and while there are some amazing games, there aren’t too many games on the market right now that truly justifies the expense of £900+, not even Half Life Alyx (which will be playable perfectly fine on Rift S, anyway).

            Almost nothing really makes good use of Valve’s Index controllers, either. Ironically, the Quest’s finger tracking stuff is a lot more interesting than the Index controllers.

            So why not just buy the best headset in terms of price and performance right now, and in a few years time, when VR has matured, and there are more games, etc, invest in the top of the line headset then?

            That’s just my opinion; there is no right or wrong answer, really. And it’s his money at the end of the day, not yours. Also the ones being militant, being biased and downvoting comments is coming from Index owners, like you, in particular.

          • Ad

            The original comment started by talking about the ethics and business practices of Facebook which has just been ignored afterwards. But the index doesn’t need more space than a rift, the sensors don’t need to be able to see each other with 2.0 so they can set on anything. The controllers are easily the best even if they didn’t have finger tracking (and Alyx will obviously use that). Ironically a lot of Rift exclusives are a lot more fun on an index like Vader Immortal, where you can actually use the force the way they do in the movies. Hand tracking is a bit funny since a lot of us have leap motions and we know it isn’t viable, especially not in a post knuckles market. HTC showed off that headsets with two cameras can probably do basic hand tracking, it just isn’t useful. Even Linus Tech Tips who really likes the Rift/Quest, thought it was an uninteresting gimmick.

          • PJ

            Again, hard to argue with you, but for £500 I don’t think it’s enough of an upgrade to the S, the audio blows the S’s out of the water, can’t deny that, but I can’t agree the Index’s audio is on par with $200-300 headphones.
            But of course your entitled you opinions.

            The Index is a fantastic overall HMD, and the best in the market, but i personally don’t think it’s £500 better than the S..

          • mirak

            It’s like saying a restaurant burger is not twice as good as a MacDonald burger and should not be twice as expensive.

            Sometime you just want the best available, and not settle for the average.

            I am pretty sure your graphic card is twice the price of graphics card that have more than twice the power.

          • PJ

            No, that’s not like that at all..

            And no, buying a graphics card twice the price is another is certainly NOT twice as powerful… wish it was

        • JakeDunnegan

          Not sure why this is down voted. He’s talking 500 pounds (which I don’t know what that is in dollars, but probably $600) – and that’s a BIG difference and an opinion, well-stated, non-offensive.

          I know if I were to make a decision between the Quest (with cable), the Rift S, or the Index, I’d go with the Quest. (I have the Rift S) – mostly for the price, compatibility, and features.

          If I had the spare money, and I thought those additional features in the Index were worth it, I’d get it.

          But, I don’t think it’s fair to “dis” someone (downvote) b/c they elect to save the money on features they don’t feel necessary or fit into their gaming budget.

          • PJ

            Cheers mate, I have to admit, I was puzzled when I have discovers that post was downvoted, Internet eh?

          • Ad

            “yes I’m aware that makes me hypocritical,”

            This is reason enough to downvote. He’s entitled to his opinions about 500 bucks, but saying that supersedes ethics and business practices is something else entirely.

        • Ad

          For something you have stuck on your face for 15 hours a week, I feel like it probably is.

    • NooYawker

      You’re right, at this point it’s slim pickings. The Rift S and Quest are good devices at a reasonable price. But let’s hope after Alyx is released it will get more companies to throw their hat in the ring. In particular, Samsung.

      • PJ

        Yeah we need an update the WMR in general, the Samsung Odyssey + is fantastic headset, lovely screen and audio, but the WMR controllers need a refresh

    • Ad

      You’re being a sold a cut down headset at cost. It’s not different than when Standard Oil sold loss leading oil to people to kill the competition. And don’t blame Valve for pushing the market forward with a premium headset they didn’t intend for most people to buy. Everyone else can get an Odyssey+

    • mirak

      If you like low quality it’s your business.

      • PJ

        Second reply to me and second load of nonsense..

        Oculus designed the CV1 Go and Quest, fantastic products (and also the readily available DK1 DK2) Lenovo designed the S which lead to some controversial decisions the halo head strap and Go’s audio (IMO both are not as good as the CV1’s let alone the Index).

        And no they didn’t ALL leave Oculus due the ‘low quality approach’ at all, not sure who’s rectum cavity you pulled that out from, but you should place it back in there, gently.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Oculus along those lines is more proprietary like apple compared to samsung/android devices.But also the most affordable mainstream vr tech.Wmr beats them on price but isn’t really mainstream.It’s hard to tell too if wmr is approaching another generation of on their way out.

    • nejihiashi88

      also microsoft appears to abandon vr altogether no xbox support or updates to windows vr.

  • VRagoso

    Valve earns money by selling their games to Oculus people (which is a lot)
    Valve earns money by selling their own Index HMD, Index Controllers and light houses
    Valve earns money with the Steam store.

    This is just business. All of it, for Facebook, Valve, or whoever else creates anything for VR. The idea is to sell us the dream, and we are here to make it possible by buying their ideas.

    Shut up and take my money

    • NooYawker

      Valves business is to sell us the dream.
      Facebooks business is finding ways to gather your personal data.

    • Ad

      You know Valve is fully private, has no private equity, is largely horizontal, and has no plans to expand outside of VR, right? They’re not the same company as Facebook, which is entirely under the control of Zuckerberg and has a mass growth and capture strategy.

      • VRagoso

        I don´t really get your point. Both companies,no, all companies on planet earth are created in order to earn money.

        They are all the same, they just have different strategies to earn money.

        One could argue that Valve is more free to do their own plans, because they are not pressured into performing well in the stock market. Since Facebook is betting with other people money, they do have to perform differently if they still want to have their money. Something that the market calls trust.

        But both are the same, just a company.

        I think it is smart move from Valve to setup Alyx for Facebookers, and I also think it is smart move from FB to create a low threshold VR equipment for everyone.

        The money is just there to be made.

        • Ad

          Do you think Valve needs the money from Alyx?

          • VRagoso

            No. They do it for sport. Like Zuckerberg ;)

        • 0x

          I think this is a very, very simplistic view. Start a company yourself and you will realize that there is no company, other than in the conceptual space in your head, and on paper. The entity you have created does not suddenly become an autonomous profit-milking machine. The company is still made up of human beings who can approach the world in philosophically different ways.

          Revenue is just the food that keeps a company alive, and profit allows it to grow. Saying that all companies are the same in that they only exist to make profit would be like saying that all humans are the same, they just exist to eat food. No – Profit is the mechanism for success, but what you do in the world with that success is a very human choice. Of course, having a philosophy or goals other than sheer profiteering gets more and more difficult as a company is publicly traded and beholden to shareholders, but let’s face it, that’s what selling out is all about.

          It’s not morally neutral and “just because it’s a company and that means it exists to make money” – no, it was a choice made by people, to value making money more than protecting their goals, value and mission in this world, if they ever had any. The differences in actions between Valve and Facebook perfectly demonstrate that two corporations can be very interested in making billions of dollars, yet operate with a very different philosophy which has a different kind of impact on the world.

          • mirak

            Haha usually I use the same analogy but saying it’s like humans goal is to breath air.

    • Brian Brown

      You are right that Valve wants to make money, but you are wrong about their priorities compared to Facebook. Valve could have made many Half Life games, or Portal games and made a fortune. Gabe Newell said in a recent interview that Valve does not pump out games for the sole purpose of making money.

      They know they HL: Alyx will sell far less than if they made a traditional HL game.
      But they didn’t, because they love the tech in VR and this was a labor of love.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0zXkwLs_lo

    • mirak

      Ok so to who Oculus is selling the Oculus exclusives then ?

  • Michael

    Well, think about this

    (a) Valve simply can’t meet the demand for headsets. So there’d be no point at all trying to force people to buy their headset to play a game because they can’t make enough to meet the demand even with alternatives existing. And, for that matter, Oculus can barely keep up with the demand for Rift S headsets – they are regularly out of stock.

    (b) The number of players for HL:Alyx and other VR games – even given the sales splurge in headsets, is already vanishingly small compared with any other game so, again, it’d be completely stupid to try and limit HL:A to one headset.

    (c) Steam VR support isn’t needed per se to play a game. Many games have oculus support and steam vr.

    Valve are not being altruistic here – they are basically doing the only option that makes sense.

    • Ad

      What does C even mean? But 1 and 2 don’t make a lot of sense because all games and sold on steam so Valve isn’t actually competing with other games.

      • Michael

        C means that many developers directly support oculus.

        i.e SteamVR support isn’t needed in a game to play it on oculus headsets.

        If you look at a game like, say, assetto corsa you’ll see it has an option for SteamVR and Oculus (as well as single and triple screen options)

        Oculus has enough headsets out there that it would just be stupid for a developer to not support them.

        If you think “all games are sold on Steam” then you’re very mistaken but neither A or B would be solved even if they were.

        • Ad

          I think it’s bad form and kind of silly to not just support the more open platform that also has a ton of other services available. Onward is kicking itself for not only being on steam because now they can’t use the workshop.

    • 0x

      I can see your reasoning, but this philosophy of Valve’s was established and maintained long before HL:Alyx was a thing. This is just a recent example of it.

    • mirak

      Ok so Oculus doesn’t make sense by doing exclusives to Oculus headsets then, is basically ,hat you are saying.

      • Michael

        No sense at all.

        I have zero titles I’ve bought on oculus store and I’ve bought 2 oculus VR headsets thus far.

  • sebrk

    I own every headset Oculus has made but with the recent involvement of Fecesbook and the fact that Oculus continues with their self-centered approach I finally caved and got an Index and I could not be happier. I pop into Oculus every now and then but all my new purchases is Steam only. SAD!

  • Glenn Ennreich

    As an owner of a Rift cv1 already abandoned by Facebook, who refuse to sell replacement cables and tell you instead to buy a new headset, I will never again give Facebook another dollar of my money. Rift-s owners won’t be far behind, since Facebook is now all Quest, only Quest. They’ve even released software updates for Quest features that made some Rifts unplayable, with no concern for that result.

    • 0x

      I can’t say I’m surprised, but that is still unfortunate to hear. Just another reason why more open platforms are safer and more trustworthy for consumers.

  • JakeDunnegan

    Great article. Open systems help the consumer, and ultimate help in the overall acceptance of the medium. (They only have to look at previous VR attempts or even 3D TVs to see how quickly a new tech can be discarded…)

  • MosBen

    I have a CV1 and a Quest, and I would very much like my next VR headset to not be from Oculus. It’s nice kit, especially the Quest, but I really don’t appreciate their approach to the business.

    • Brian Brown

      A good way to start would be to buy a used HTC Vive. Once you have a Vive, you can upgrade to Valve Index parts piecemeal. I had a Vive and loved it, and only had to buy the Index HMD and the controllers. They Vive base stations work perfectly.

      • mirak

        It doesn’t makes sense, it will cost the same to buy the Index Full Kit.
        Unless you want to do multiplayer with Vive and Index.

        • Brian Brown

          Where I live you can pick up a used HTC Vive (full kit) for $150.

          • MosBen

            I think that they’re saying that buying the Index setup piecemeal costs the same as buying the full kit, which misses that it might be easier to spread the cost out over time, rather than spending the fully amount at once.

            For me it’s less about the cost of the Index, though in these uncertain economic times I’m trying to put off any big purchases, and more about the reality that before I upgrade my HMD I need to upgrade my PC. While my GTX 1070 is decent enough for most things, it’s really the nearly 6 year old CPU/mobo/RAM/etc. that’s running underneath it that’s probably starting to be a bottleneck.

  • Moe Curley

    Well said.

  • Yes, but Valve doesn’t do that only to be the “good guy”. Valve owns Steam and wants Steam to be the to-go store for VR, and the only way to do that is ensuring that it is compatible with all headsets. Being compatible with the biggest shareholders of VR, that is Rift S and Quest is a big advantage to Valve that can so sell more games.

    It’s a different philosophy from the one of Oculus, also one that I like more, so my biggest kudos to Valve

    • Brian Brown

      They are doing to be a ‘good guy’. Look at all of the HMD’s they support, some with a tiny fraction of users compared to Oculus. And Facebook is straight up evil, so I don’t know why you defend them.

      • brandon9271

        Being the “good guy” and doing what’s good for business aren’t mutually exclusive in this case.

    • mirak

      They want to sell, but they never force companies to provide exclusives.
      They don’t really need to, so maybe that could change, and Alyx is an exclusive in some way, I doubt it will be available on Oculus Store some day.

    • Jistuce

      It is worth noting that you don’t have to be on Steam to use SteamVR.My free Epic store copy of Subnautica has the SteamVR features still enabled. As do various freeware titles downloaded from the developers’ websites. They’d rather you buy games on their store, but aren’t going to gate SteamVR BEHIND that store.

      On the other hand, I don’t believe there’s a way to install SteamVR without installing Steam and setting up an account.

  • Ad

    Valve is the company that both can and should push and develop VR into a mature medium.

  • Ad

    Facebook is a dangerous monopolist tech giant, often considered one of the three most dangerous companies on earth. I hate how a few low price headsets are enough to make some in the community sell out VR. I don’t care if VR is set back a year if it keeps it an open platform with way more potential.

  • kontis

    The reasons of this strangely different attitude to PC gaming market by Oculus are really simple:

    Facebook is NOT in it for PC
    They simply wanted to exploit the community and devs to kickstart their own platform with gaming being only a fraction, just like on smartphones.

    I still remember first conference call after Facebook bought Oculus. Brendan Iribe forced himself to never use the word “game”, even once. It was really bizarre because whenever he spoke bore that he always talked a lot about gaming. Suddenly it was an embarrassing topic, so they switched to the “social” narrative.

    They also immediately started talking about 2025 goal for AR smartglasses for normal people, not some filthy nerds.

    • mirak

      They needed to suppress the idea that VR was isolating.

  • Sven Viking

    Without Valve, Half-Life: Alyx wouldn’t be compatible with Vive or Index. Or PCs.

  • Kraufthauser

    One thing I miss in the article is that Valve makes money by selling as many games as possible. If Oculus did the same, almost nobody would sell their games on Oculus Home. I remember an interview with Jason Rubin (by someone from roadtovr). OCulus asked other headsetmakers to make them compliant with Oculus Home. No-one did. Go figure.

  • 0x

    Valve’s consistency in this kind of philosophy is the main factor in my loyalty to them. It would be easy to criticize them for micro-transactions or their rev share on Steam, but the fact remains that Valve invest their effort and resources into lifting the medium up as a whole. This is especially evident in their contributions to the VR ecosystem, and indeed their role in its creation.

    Support open platforms!

    Closed platforms are the enemy of the global tech and software development communities at large, working solely towards selfish goals rather than doing anything to directly support the progress and betterment of all. This is also why I reject Apple and their products. Nothing wrong with making a profit, but we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants here. Anyone operating in this space with some values and integrity should want to give something back, and want to see others succeed in the same space. This is why the open-source community is so wonderful.

    In my opinion, Facebook can stick their Oculus right up their closed-platform. Do not want.

  • JB1968

    It’s just all business in the first place. If Valve is so altruistic I don’t understand why they don’t officially support and maintain PSVR headsets on SteamVR as this would open Steam to biggest VR user base.

  • Jay

    Gaming company versus data-collecting company. Enough said. Do not support facebook.