It’s no secret that the core technology residing in the HTC Vive was developed by Valve, a company widely respected for their videogame titles and distribution platform Steam, but without any hardware manufacturing experience. It was perhaps due to this reason that the Half-Life creator looked to partner with a company already familiar with product development and distribution for the launch of its first virtual reality (VR) device, but it was no secret that any exclusivity arrangement would be limited. Now it appears as though that close relationship is coming to an end.
While Valve hasn’t gone so far as to directly announce a new partnership with LG, the press communications team today issued a statement concerning the upcoming reveal of a prototype head-mounted display (HMD) that will be revealed at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this week. Moreover, the Seattle-based company will be hosting demos of LG’s new product in their own booth.
“During the show, LG will be meeting with developers, collect feedback and impressions as part of its efforts to define the first commercial units,” reads the minimalist press release. “Pricing, launch dates, and territories will be announced at a later date.”
This, as might be expected, is a very similar road to that which HTC and Valve took following the original announcement of the HTC Vive back in 2015. The announcement was made by HTC at Mobile World Congress (MWC) with the first hands-on experiences subsequently offered at that year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC). Further software studios were then invited to apply for the development kits, with their own demos and titles shared at later events. Valve were right behind the studios, while HTC continued to push the hardware agenda up to launch in April 2016.
Nearly one year later and HTC hasn’t stopped. The HTC Vive is arguably the most popular high-end VR platform and new accessories, such as the Tracker puck and Deluxe Audio Strap, are seeing significant demand. But that doesn’t mean Valve aren’t entitled to look elsewhere to grow their VR audience.
“We are expanding the world of @SteamVR with our friends at LG.” Tweeted Chet Faliszek, noted Game Writer at Valve, shortly after today’s announcement.
So what does the announcement of a new partnership with LG mean for HTC, and the HTC Vive? Could this be the end of the platform? Could it be that Valve want to move away from HTC or the brand the two companies jointly created? In fairness, probably not. Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the agreement between HTC and Valve for the HTC Vive will be affected in any way, however it’s sure to raise a question in the core VR audience’s head until such details come to light.