Steam collects anonymous hardware and software data on a monthly basis to discern what its community is using to play video games. “The information gathered is incredibly helpful to us as we make decisions about what kinds of technology investments to make and products to offer,” Valve explained. Its October 2019 data is illuminating. Reddit user Annsly compiled this information with a SteamVR performance test to break down the top 50 most popular video cards into “VR ready” and “Not ready”.
The conclusion was that approximately 37 per cent of Steam users could run VR games, but this is only dependent on their graphics processing unit. Factors like free hard drive space, VRAM, and whether they own a VR headset in the first instance affect this statistic. Drawing from the October 2019 hardware and software data, only 1.03 per cent of users have a VR headset. Of this group, 0.05 per cent own a Valve Index.
Half-Life: Alyx won’t be getting a non-VR version, because that would have been “ultimately degrading and sacrificing the quality of the experience on both sides.” Once it touches down in March 2020, it will be on offer for $59.99 or it will be free to those with a Valve Index. As described, not a lot of people own Valve’s own VR headset. If I want the gizmo with its unique controllers and base stations, that’ll be £919.00 (or about $1,184). My laptop’s video card isn’t counted in that top 50 list, so I’d have to swap that out for a whizzier one. The costs are (hypothetically) mounting up.
The data is a little skewy, however. One Steam user might own a desktop and a laptop to play games, and apparently the VR headset is only recognised if its head-mounted display mount is plugged in when Steam trawls for data. Half-Life: Alyx will work on other VR headsets as well as the Index, but these alternatives don’t come cheap either. Currys is selling the HTC Vive for around £500, and John Lewis has got the Oculus Rift S for £350.
Half-Life: Alyx is out for the Valve Index in March, 2020. Perhaps then I will have saved enough pennies to pick up the latest venture into the critically acclaimed Half-Life series.