This week the news broke out that Steam will adding VR video to it’s platform in the form of the Steam 360 Video Player. This is a big deal, in case you didn’t know.
If you’ve never heard of Steam then, first of all, welcome back to civilization! While you were away on that desert island Steam has become the default platform for most PC gamers to get their hands on the latest titles. It’s the brainchild of Valve Corporation and the poster-child for digital distribution. It’s also probably one of the main reasons computers don’t bother with optical drives anymore.
Valve has been one of the major players in the VR industry and is the co-owner of the other mainstream VR HMD, the HTC Vive. Around the Vive Valve have built their SteamVR platform and more hardware has come for room-scale motion tracking.
Going to the Movies
Last year Steam announced that movie rentals were coming to the store. Having already diversified into non-gaming software such as video editors it was a logical move to give consumers more things to buy in a storefront they already had access to anyway. A captive audience of about 125 million active users is a very difficult thing to ignore after all.
Going up against such giants as Google and Amazon is a bold move on the part of Steam, but the platform has built up a loyal brand following and sometimes can appear incapable of wrongdoing in the eyes of fans.
A Match Made in Heaven
Given all the facts it makes perfect sense for Steam to start stocking VR video titles. Certainly it makes more sense than someone like Apple doing it. After all, Steam is where the VR hardcore lives and they are most likely to actually have the hardware and interest to pay for these films.
As to where the movies will come from, it appears that Valve has partnered with a company called Pixvana who already have all the back-end technology sorted out.
What’s on Offer
Obviously if the idea takes off we’ll see more and more content, but for now there’s at least the Pixvana showreel and both a Lego Batman and Alien Covenant VR experience on offer.
The Pixvana platform is designed for the Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive. All of which are not that mainstream. On PC you also apparently still need to hit the minimum requirements for the Vive and Oculus, even though it’s streaming video data. That does seem a bit weird though, but we’ll be able to test if on lesser hardware soon enough.
Overall this is a positive development, since the one thing that VR needs to thrive is content and Valve seems committed to ensuring we don’t get bored with our HMDs.