As more developers focus on building VR experiences for the Quest, the future of PC VR at Valve is in question.
When Half-Life: Alyx was released in 2020, the groundbreaking VR adventure exceeded all expectations with gamers thanks to the roughly 15 hours of mind-blowing gameplay and amazing characters. Not to mention the incredible attention to detail and franchise-shaking storyline.
Since its launch, the game has been downloaded by 2 million people and won numerous awards, including VR Game of the Year at the 2020 Steam Awards. More importantly, Half-Life: Alyx showed us what VR technology is capable of under the right leadership.
Even with the success of HL:A, the future of VR at Valve seemed to be on shaky grounds thanks to the popularity of the Oculus (Meta) Quest 2. In a video posted by Tyler McVicker, thepopular YouTuber claims that most of Valve’s experienced VR developers have been scooped up by Meta and are developing experiences for the Quest 2 exclusively.
“Valve was somewhat expecting Half-Life: Alyx to be the flag planted in PC VR to move things back over,” said McVicker in the nine-minute video.
Apparently, things haven’t panned out exactly how the company hoped. PC VR, for the most part, continues to fall by the wayside in favor of more easily-accessible standalone experiences. For Valve, this meant shifting away from VR altogether. Developers claim that Valve has canceled all of its VR projects in response to a changing market. 3X VR founder CixLiv voiced his perspective with a very direct tweet that said, “Sorry to my VR friends. I declare PC VR dead. Prove me wrong.”
HL:A wasn’t about selling software, according to McVicker. It was about delivering an incredible VR experience that could be used to turn the tide in PC VR’s favor. But with the Meta Quest 2 offering a more affordable and accessible alternative, Valve has been unable to gather enough momentum.
As a result, McVicker says that most of the Half-Life: Alyx developers have since shifted gears and are now working on the Steam Deck. That said, there does appear to be hope.
McVicker talks about a new Half-Life VR game potentially in the works. The project is supposedly in the prototype stage and lacks any real story, though rumors suggest it could pick up right where HL:A left off. After all, the ending of Half-Life: Alyx did suggest there was more to the story. However, with most of Valve’s developers supposedly focused on Steam Deck, Valve could potentially cancel the project; if it ever really existed in the first place.
Rumors have also been circulating about a new VR headset in development at Valve. References to a standalone VR headset were recently found in Valve’s SteamVR code alongside the codename “Deckard”. First discovered by YouTuber Brad Lynch, Valve’s Deckard would supposedly feature a built-in processer and inside-out tracking, removing the need for a tethered PC or external base stations.
One thing that gives us some hope for the future of VR at Valve is a patent that was filed in October by Valve for eye tracking that uses IR LED technology instead of cameras. In a tweet by Brad Lynch, he mentions how Everlight, the world’s 5th largest LED manufacturer, will be using their IR LEDs and photodiodes in VR/AR devices, with some headsets releasing in 2022.
Even if true, Deckard’s release would still be years away, and since VR isn’t a priority for Valve at the moment, there’s always a chance it could end up dying on the vine. For now, we are at the mercy of rumors and speculation. If you’d like to check out Valve’s Index VR headset, you can pick one up on Steam along with a free copy of Half-Life: Alyx. Half-Life: Alyx is on sale now for $29.99.
Feature Image Credit: Valve