Valve Time Strikes Again: No SteamVR / HTC ‘Til Spring

It wasn’t that many months ago that I had fondly but confidently dreamed I would be spending Christmas in a VR wonderland. Those tykes at Valve seem always able to convince me that this time, this time they’re going to meet a mooted release date. Of course they’re not going to! It is completely, absolutely their thing to not do it! Would they even still be Valve if they did?

In fairness, their Steam VR headset, the Vive, is a partnership with HTC, who are doing the heavy lifting in terms of manufacturing, and it’s them who’ve finally broken cover and admitted that the thing definitely won’t be with us until next year. DAMMIT.

“We will be starting the new year by making an additional 7,000 units available to developers, followed by commercial availability in April 2016,” reveal HTC in a new blogpost confirming the already-likely delay, which they rather oddly open with “we are excited to give the community an update on the status of HTC Vive.” Delays aren’t exciting! Delays are annoying.

Still, that’s only four months away, presuming that date is stuck to, though I sure would have liked somewhere fantastical to retreat to during these cold winter months. HTC don’t quite manage to give a clear reason for the delay, though imply that it’s to do with wanting to have tons and tons of software available at launch. See if you can pick anything else out of this, though:

“Since announcing the HTC Vive in March of this year we have focused on developing immersive content, refining both hardware design and user experience, and building relationships with new partners both inside and outside of the gaming industry. In collaboration with Valve, we have been distributing the HTC Vive Developer Kits to developers and content creators, and are continuing to work with many other innovative companies to create content that spans gaming, entertainment, medical, education and retail.”

They also note there’ll be a developer conference in Beijing on December 18th, so we might get to see a whole bunch of new stuff then. No major upcoming new game has announced Vive support yet – Elite Dangerous has but, expansions notwithstanding, that’s a game which has been around for a while (and has boasted VR support for almost all that time), not a big shiny new hardware-flogging launch title – perhaps something is brewing there, and they really didn’t want to launch their virtual reality roadshow until they had a headline act to go with it.

April, then. Can’t wait.

47 Comments

  1. Simon_Scott says:

    Longer to save up for a new GPU for me then. Keen to get my VR on, but am going to sit on my hands until the reviews start coming in for commercial sets, after which I shall make a confused decision.

    • hollowroom says:

      I misread “sit” there and am still laughing. I’m such a child.

      • Simon_Scott says:

        That is pretty funny. :D

      • Vandelay says:

        Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. I misread the o and r of work in “group work” as a and n on a handwritten feedback form for a training course at work the other. Still sniggering just thinking about it.

  2. Asokn says:

    Does anyone know what sort of PC one might need to run a VR set? I imagine it would require quite a beefy computer but then I would also assume that the developers would want to have a market consisting of more than a few thousand potential customers.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Oculus have said it takes roughly three times the grunt over a single monitor set up. Most of it on the GPU I should imagine.

      So, if you’re getting 90 fps in Battlefield 4 on your monitor, call it 30 fps in the Oculus. How well the HTC stands up I have no idea.

      • ErogenousJones says:

        Wow, completely mangled that XHTML…

      • BadCatWillum says:

        Elite Dangerous Horizons’ high-end GPU requirements are probably because in addition to the rendering performance required by the resolution, stereoscopic view and refresh rate of the headset, Frontier are also using the GPU to run compute shaders that generate planetary terrain geometry on the fly. There is a shader in the current beta’s settings to control how to divide GPU time between rendering and compute work.

        For games not doing this compute work (eg if you don’t land on a planet in EDH), you’ll get away with the default GTX970-class hardware.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      All the recommended specs so far have been high-end NVIDIA GPUs. If you don’t already own one of those (GTX 970 or better), it seems like a very good idea to wait for NVIDIA’s next generation (Pascal), which is going to have some key technological improvements.

      • Replikant says:

        At the moment it looks as if 2016 is going to be a good year to upgrade. Skylake processors and boards seem to be a solid evolutionary step and may become affordable next year, I hope. More importantly, the graphics chips are finally going to move away from 28nm manufacturing which should give a massive boost to performance.
        Even if the new cards are initially expensive, the prices of current high-end cards will probably plummet real fast.

        • Person of Interest says:

          Last-gen video cards don’t really go on fire sales: they remain priced fairly closely to the equivalent performance current-gen model. I think if you browse some hardware price-tracking websites, you’ll see this bear out: I checked the price history of several GTX 780 models, and they all dropped from $400+ to $330 when the GTX 970 was released, but no lower.

          • xyzzy frobozz says:

            I always have to have that argument with some peanut when I’m trying to sell my old cards on Ebay.

            “But it’s an old card!” they say.

            Yeah, but it’s priced $150 less than the current card of equivalent performance. I reckon that’s a fair price given the warranty is usually still running, and that I usually buy x80Ti.

          • Replikant says:

            Usually not. However, in the last four years the progress has been slow and continuous, differences between card-generations weren’t that big and the older cards therefore did not loose too much value.
            However, 2016 will probably see a real step forward in card capabilities. I expect todays high-end cards to be comparable to next-gen mid-tier cards. Prieces should reflect that.

    • Chaz says:

      Well this is the minimum spec Frontier have just announced in their latest newsletter for playing Elite Dangerous on a retail release VR headset.

      We are delighted to be able to announce the minimum VR specs for Elite Dangerous. If you have access to the Elite Dangerous: Horizons beta, you can play it with VR now.

      Minimum Spec for VR:
      • OS: Windows 7/8/10 64 bit
      • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K Quad Core CPU or better / AMD FX 4350 Quad Core CPU or better
      • Memory: 16 GB RAM
      • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 980 with 4GB or better
      • Network: Broadband Internet Connection
      • Hard Drive: 8 GB available space

      You can see the minimum and recommended PC specs for the Elite Dangerous: Horizons beta on our store page.

      We are passionate about VR and Elite Dangerous is leading the way in cutting edge VR software development. This is what we consider to be a minimum spec to have a good experience on forthcoming consumer VR headsets.

      As most of you are aware we currently support HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift 0.5 SDK. We continue to work with Oculus on support for their more recent SDKs, and will let you know if and when there is more to announce.

      So not very lightweight specs. Also I always thought that the 970 was being touted as the entry level card for VR but according to those specs you’ll need to go one better.

      • DJ_TwilightUK says:

        That is quite worrying, I am definitely going to be ordering either Oculus or Vive as soon as pre-orders are available. I have already decided to splash on a new GPU and went for a 970 as this was confirmed as minimum spec for Oculus. A 980 is an order of magnitude more expensive for a relatively small gain in performance. If more developers are going to moving the goal posts then I guess it looks like I made a mistake!

        • SpinalJack says:

          I’m developing on a 970 so at least that’s definitely still our target specs :)

          • JimboDeany says:

            Good as I’m about to buy a new PC and was going to go for a 970 too!

        • Person of Interest says:

          Coming from a fellow GTX 970 owner: I wouldn’t worry. Nearly all 970’s have enough overclocking headroom to exceed a stock GTX 980’s performance. Heck, the out-of-the-box overclocks on most 970 cards are already within a few percentage points of a 980.

          Of course, a GTX 980 can be overclocked to the same extent, but I assume official specs always refer to stock performance.

        • Vandelay says:

          This is why I have decided to hold off on the upgrade I was going to do next year (getting a PS4 for Christmas to tide me over instead.) Unless you spend a lot of money, VR is still out of reach (not that I will definitely get VR, but I want it to be an option without another upgrade.)

          I believe the target performance you are looking for is 90fps at 1440p. I’m not even sure if a 980 would consistently do this in anything but a fairly low demanding engine. Next year’s new hardware will likely be more consistent and top end will probably be great for it, but midrange won’t meet the cut for everything.

          I have no idea how Sony are planning on doing VR on a PS4!

  3. Chaz says:

    Awww! Well the lack of any kind of info these last couple of months was pretty much a give away that it wouldn’t release in time for Christmas. Still, I held out hope. But April, that’s another 4 months. Nooooo!

    Anyway I thought that Elite Dangerous had announced Vive support. Frontier certainly keep saying so in their weekly update emails. If anything they make it sound like they’re having more joy getting the Vvie to work with the game than the Oculus right now.

  4. ErogenousJones says:

    “No major game has announced Vive support yet”

    Elite: Dangerous has Vive support. Announced in September, was playable at EGX, available in the Horizons Beta now.

    link to frontier.co.uk

    • Bull0 says:

      No *major* game has announced Vive support yet.

    • montfalcon says:

      “No major upcoming new game”. Yes, E:D has Vive and Oculus support, but it is neither new, nor upcoming.

      • BadCatWillum says:

        Depends whether you can see a season of content and expansions as a new product or not. The episodic release model seems to be accepted for Half Life Episode #N and for Telltale Games’ franchises – do these scripted stories differ so much from Elite’s ‘choose your own adventure’ approach that you can only see Elite as a monolithic game?

  5. Ethaor says:

    It’s been like that for years for the Oculus Rift and now the HTC Vive. Every year they come up with an exciting release schedule and promesses and every year the only thing they deliver is a delay.

    Don’t expect an April release. All VR hardwares are going to be delayed year after year until one of the major player finally decides on marketting it, only then will everyone jump in the release wagon.

    Until then they’ll delay it the best they can because the tech isn’t ready, screen resolution is still quite low and with hardware recquirement that is too high. They don’t want it to be an unaffordable niche product.

    • goettel says:

      Oculus has made only one announcement for the consumer version release date, and that was, and is, Q1 2016.

      • Tiax says:

        …and Oculus Gear VR consumer version is already out, works well and costs 100 $.

        So much for a niche product.

  6. Ethaor says:

    I’d like to add that it’s their job to keep the hype up and make us beleive the release is only a few months away. Take the OR for exemple, it’s been “months away” from release for a couple of years now.

  7. Replikant says:

    HTC Vive launch confirmed to coincide with release of HL3.

  8. Clavus says:

    This means the Oculus Rift probably beats them to the market, since that’s still slated for Q1. The Oculus Touch controllers however won’t be shipping until sometime in Q2, if Oculus’ messaging is still correct. In the end just a few months won’t matter much. It’s not like new console generations where they immediately have millions of customers lining up, it’ll be much more of a slow burn over the coming years.

    • Themadcow says:

      Getting in ‘first’ is a massive deal. Early adopters are going to form a big part of the profit needed to offset the heavy development costs for these technologies. Handing the advantage to Oculus could well be devestating for the Vive.

      • Martel says:

        I might be in this boat. I like the looks of the Vive, but I really just want a consumer product at this point so I’ll probably end up getting whichever comes out first. I can’t afford both

  9. Replikant says:

    The race is on now. HTCs finances are not particularly healthy at the moment. Maybe they should rename the goggles to HTC surVIVE.

  10. Zorn says:

    I’m really quite interested in VR. That being said, I’m hoping that it can be what it is being cracked up to be. Although I’m not really up to upgrading my system, until there’s something that really urges me to.

    I’m sometimes wondering how well this 6 years old system holds up. The ye olde amd quadcore, radeon 5700 and 8gb ram.
    I’ve got to say, the ssd does wonders for the system boot.

    Thinking it feels like yesteryear to have tinkered with connfig sys’ and autoexec bats.

    (insert bat pun)

    • Replikant says:

      Ah, those were the days! Trying to get 605k free memory for a new game, loading as much drivers as possible to high memory, hunting for the mouse driver with the smallest footprint and generally not having the slightest clue what I am doing.

      • Person of Interest says:

        Falcon 3.0’s lower memory requirements scarred me for life: I’m still frightened of flight sims. 614,400 bytes! I think I was in tears when the best I could allocate with sound enabled was still a few hundred bytes short.

  11. BillsterJ says:

    I got my hands on the Vive at Day of the Devs event last month, and not to toot the hype train too much, but I found it pretty wonderful. I loved playing around with the 3D art game Tilt Brush, but it wasn’t until I watched my friend play Fantastic Contraption that I really saw its potential.

    My friend doesn’t consider himself a gamer, and I basically dragged him out to the event. When it was his turn to play, it took him all of one minute to feel comfortable with the controls. No sickness, no disorientation. Just my non-gamer friend laughing and joyfully making silly machines with his hands. I’m definitely not sure if the Vive will succeed, I have worries about the price of entry and its game library, but make no mistake: this could be huge.

  12. waltC says:

    I predict an equally rousing success for this device as Valve has garnered with the sensational Steam machine! (…er, wait…a minute…)

  13. celticdr says:

    The delay might be annoying for us gamers who are ready for VR but exciting for Valve/HTC employees because the Vive is no where near ready to be released… at least that’s the only way I can see to justify them using the word “exciting” in this context.