Right now, for better or worse, the majority of the tech industry is focused on, and excited about, virtual reality. Even our CES coverage couldn't avoid it this year. With that said, one of the companies who should be the most optimistic about the technology is taking a decidedly different, and characteristically unusual, approach: Valve.
Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve, is known for big, unfounded statements about the success, or lack of success, of certain products and platforms. He famously said that Windows 8 "isn't for gamers," a statement that turned out to be far from true. You would expect then, that he would have a very optimistic view of VR, considering the HTC Vive, a partnership with Valve, is arguably the best VR headset currently available. In a unique sit-down conversation, he said,
We're optimistic. We think VR is going great. It's going in a way that's consistent with our expectations... We're also pretty comfortable with the idea that it will turn out to be a complete failure.
Some people have got attention by going out and saying there'll be millions of (VR unit sales) and we're like, wow, I don't think so.
For the first time, potentially in history, I have to agree completely with Gabe. I believe that VR is going to be the next 3D TV - a technology that is splashy and popular for a while, but will fade to the background with time. There are two current issues that are preventing the technology form succeeding. First is the cost of entry for real, PC-based VR. Second, as I have maintained, is a lack of quality content. The majority of VR content on the market is so-so at best. Gabe, as it turns out, agrees,
I can't point to a single piece of content that would cause millions of people to justify changing their home computing... If you took the existing VR systems and made them 80 percent cheaper, that's still not a huge market. There's still not a really incredibly compelling reason for people to spend 20 hours a day in VR... There's an old joke that premature cost reduction is the root of all evil.
It will be interesting to see if this new revelation is the beginning of a change within Valve in regards to VR. There are really only 2 places for VR content today: Valve's Steam VR and Oculus, and a potential dismissal of the technology by Valve could open the door for another player, including Microsoft's incoming partner VR headsets, to rule the space.