As we wait for Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets from Microsoft’s partners to hit the market in 4Q17, the Redmond giant has now announced that its platform will be compatible with Steam. This is a big deal, since it means that the various iterations of the new PC-connected headsets will have a ready-made library of titles from day one and that developers don’t automatically have to support an additional store for distribution.
Platform compatibility is the No. 1 challenge for consumer VR
The arrival of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality–powered hardware is eagerly anticipated by the VR industry. It has multiple hardware partners (Dell, HP, Asus, etc.) and a low entry-level cost ($350), supports high-end VR content, and has full 6DoF tracking embedded with the headsets, rather than needing external sensors. Now we can add day-one compatibility with Steam to the list of pluses – meaning that as soon as a new Dell Visor or Lenovo Mirage is plugged in and configured, a library of content is right there.
The benefits of this are twofold. First, as mentioned above, it means that there will be software available on day one and that Microsoft is tacitly acknowledging that Steam has become the de facto standard content store for non-portable VR headsets – hopefully circumventing the “must use Windows 10 store” problems that have hampered adoption of apps in the past. Second, and perhaps more significantly, it means developers and distributors can focus on great content and experiences without worrying about compatibility or store mechanics – massively important when you’re looking at a fragmented fledgling market where the installed base of any one headset is in the tens of thousands.
This, along with the cross-device Windows Mixed Reality platform, also signals that we’re getting to a stage in VR where standard platforms and publishing practices are becoming a reality rather than just hot air from industry groups and standards bodies.
The Future of the VR Content Market, ME0002-000787 (August 2017)
VR Tracker: 2Q17, ME0002-000783 (July 2017)
“The VR market has been shaped by six major trends over the past year,” ME0002-000757 (April 2017)
VR Headset Unit Sales, Installed Base, and Hardware Revenue Forecasts: 2016–21, TE0004-001172 (June 2017)
Paul Jackson, Principal Analyst, Digital Media