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article imageValve boss Gabe Newell 'comfortable' with idea VR could fade away

By James Walker     Feb 16, 2017 in Technology
Gabe Newell, boss of gaming company Valve, has opened up about his views on VR in a rare press interview. He said Valve remains "optimistic" about VR's future but is also "comfortable" with the possibility of the technology failing to gain mass appeal.
Virtual reality has been talked about for decades as a kind of mythical technology set to dramatically improve our lives. In the past couple of years, the VR future has begun to arrive, delivered by consumer-focused VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
"VR is going great"
However, although the technology is here, not everyone is rushing to start gaming in VR. Prohibitive pricing, continued portability issues and a distinct lack of content mean VR is still struggling to its feet. According to Valve, 1,300 VR apps are now available on Steam, with 30 having made over $250,000. That's hardly a large sum of money in the gaming industry though.
Virtual reality has a long way to go before it reaches mass appeal. In an interview with press members this week, Newell explained Valve's stance on the technology. He admitted that it's possible VR will fail to gain critical momentum, becoming an overhyped disappointment like 3D TV.
"We're optimistic. We think VR is going great. It's going in a way that's consistent with our expectations," Polygon reports Newell said. "We're also pretty comfortable with the idea that it will turn out to be a complete failure."
"It's a great thing"
Newell criticised Valve's industry rivals for their flamboyant marketing claims that have suggested VR is ready to go mainstream. Taking a more realistic approach to the technology's public reception, Newell conceded "it's a great thing for enthusiasts and hardcore people" but not yet worthwhile for general consumers.
"Some people [and companies] have got attention by going out and saying there'll be millions of [headset sales] and we're like, wow, I don’t think so," he remarked. "I can't point to a single piece of content that would cause millions of people to justify changing their home computing."
Newell's last comment is particularly telling. The reluctance to adopt VR isn't just driven by price but also scepticism regarding its capabilities. People enjoy playing games with a screen and controller. Until VR loses its sickening side-effects and gains a wider selection of quality content, the technology will be confined to a limited number of users.
"Frothy excitement"
Headset manufacturers across the industry are now working to improve their products before the current hype around VR fades away. The focus is on upgrading hardware features, adding higher-resolution displays, reducing the size of headsets and improving compute performance. This could lead to far more enjoyable future VR experiences, enabling a wider appeal.
In the short-term, the current crop of $800 headsets have received decidedly mixed reviews. While some players and critics are sold on the idea, the majority remain sceptical at best and dismissive at worst.
According to Newell, VR isn't going away anytime soon though. He said developers are filled with a "fruitful, frothy excitement" about the technology and "everybody comes back" to work on new VR projects.
More about Valve, Steam, Gaming, PC gaming, Virtual reality