Is valve, the company behind steam, the invisible champion of metauniverse?

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Author | Chenglin PUA (Malaysia) editor | Yu Baicheng typesetting | Wang jilongyan

Original title:γ€ŠValve, the invisible champion of the metauniverse》

Metauniverse has received a lot of attention in the past year. Many familiar big companies have laid out the meta universe. Foreign high-tech companies include Microsoft, meta, Google, apple, NVIDIA, etc. In China, there are players such as Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba and ByteDance. In fact, valve, the company behind steam game platform, is also a strong competitor in the field of metauniverse.

Introduction to valve

Valve Corporation is an American video game developer, publisher and digital distribution company. Valve is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. It is the developer of software distribution platforms steam and games half life, counter strike, portal, day of defense, Team Fortress, left 4 dead and dota.

Valve was founded by former Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington in 1996. Its debut, the first person shooting game "half life", achieved an important commercial success when it was launched in 1998. Harrington, the founder, left valve in 2000. In 2003, valve launched steam platform (called steam platform in China), followed by half life 2 in 2004. With the advanced physical system and the construction of stories and characters, "half life 2" has won unanimous praise. By 2011, a total of 12million copies had been sold. In 2013, valve released dota 2, a multiplayer online battle arena game.

Valve released fewer games in the 2010's and tried hardware and VR. In 2015, they entered the hardware market with steam machine series, a poorly sold game computer, and released HTC vive and valve index VR headphones. In 2020, valve released its flagship VR game "half life: alyx" and returned to the "half life" game series. In 2022, valve released steam deck, a portable game system.

Valve describes game design as an experimental psychology through game testing and iterative game development. Valve derives most of its revenue from steam, which controlled 50% to 70% of the PC Game download market in 2011.

Create a game VR platform, steamvr

Steamvr platform, released on April 4th, 2016, is a VR social application of steam. Steamvr is equipped with many VR head displays or hardware, such as oculus Quest 2 and oculus rift s under meta. In steamvr, players can connect with each other. Steam VR also has social function, allowing users to enter any room scene, but cannot upload personal images. In the steam VR creation workshop, you can see a large number of players' self-made rooms for display and communication.

Nowadays, many players will go to steamvr platform to download VR games to play. According to the data of road to VR, as of January 2022, there were nearly 4million monthly active VR head displays on the steamvr platform. Since the official launch of steamvr platform in 2016, the number of VR Games has increased steadily at the rate of 1000 new models per year, and has become one of the largest content libraries and central areas / platforms of VR games.

Number of monthly active head displays on steamvr platform

Source: road to VR

Percentage of hardware on steamvr platform (from August 2020 to July 2021)

Data source: road to VR

Why is the steamvr platform successful? In fact, the success of steamvr platform mainly has the following three advantages:

Β·First, backed by steam, the world's largest game community, the steamvr platform can quickly screen out high-quality content through user feedback

Β·Steamvr platform has a policy of being friendly to independent developers, and it happens that a large number of independent developers are needed as the main content production power in the early stage of VR game development

Β·Finally, valve has a very strong self-research strength. Valve, born in the research and development of end game, has a stronger first-party content advantage than the transformation of pure hardware manufacturers as a platform

Virtual reality layout of valve

At the game developer conference in March 2015, valve and HTC, an electronic company, launched steamvr and HTC vive, a virtual reality platform and a virtual reality headset. The feature of steamvr platform is its "Lighthouse" motion tracking system, in which the sensor on HTC vive headset and its attached motion controller read the position of two base station devices installed in the game area (that is, place two devices in the room so that the game console can locate your position). Players do not need to maintain a fixed position in front of the camera, and can walk freely in the space.

In November 2017, Microsoft added beta support for steamvr services to windows mixed reality headphones. In June, 2019, valve released its VR headset device, valve index, which is positioned as a high-end device with wider vision and higher refresh rate. Valve index comes with an updated motion controller. The valve index is tied to the palm of the user and has a sensor for detecting input pressure and a single finger. Valve index is characterized by a resolution of up to 144hz (experimental mode), and is equipped with an index handle that supports five finger tracking, with a resolution of 1600x1440 for a single eye. The package of valve index including head display, handle and base station costs $999. However, if you want to use valve index, you need to be equipped with a high-performance game computer. Due to its high threshold and high starting price of the whole set, it can be said that the audience of valve index is mainly for a small number of hard core VR game players.

Valve index Kit

In July 2021, among the top three steamvr active devices, in addition to Quest 2 and rift s, the third is valve index, accounting for 16.23%, and these three models have continued to rank in the top three for nearly half a year. Quest 2 and oculus rift s of meta have a market share of 61.3%. According to the data of steam platform, as of July 2021, valve index VR head display has been listed in the top ten products with the highest sales of steam for 50 consecutive weeks.

Market share of various brands on steamvr platform

Data source: road to VR

Create a benchmark for VR games

Half life: alyx is a virtual reality first person shooter game developed and released by valve in 2020. It is released for windows and Linux and supports most PC compatible VR headsets. Set five years ago in the "half life 2" game (2007), players controlled alyx Vance to perform a mission to capture super weapons belonging to the alien coalition. Like the previous half life game series, alyx combines combat, puzzles, exploration and survival horror. Players use VR to interact with the environment and fight against the enemy.

Half life: alyx Poster

The previous half life 2 was released in 2007, and the ending of the game ended in suspense. Valve has tried to further develop half life for many times, but failed to determine the final direction. The flat management structure makes it difficult for the project to gather momentum. In the mid-2010's, valve began to try VR and released the lab, a collection of VR games, in 2016. Recognizing the need for large-scale VR games, they conducted prototype tests using various intellectual property rights such as portal, and found that the "half life" game series is very suitable for VR.

Half life: alyx began to try to use valve's source 2 game engine in 2016, and officially entered the development stage. At that time, valve also acquired studio Campo Santo to develop this game in 2018. However, the application of VR has affected almost all aspects of design, including combat, sports, level design and rhythm. Valve originally planned to launch half life: alyx with index VR headphones in 2019, but due to technical and story problems, the release was finally postponed and released in 2020.

Half life: alyx is widely praised for its graphic display, dubbing, narration and atmosphere. It is called the first killer game of VR. Half life: alyx has been nominated for numerous awards and won the "best vr/ar" award at the 2020 game awards. Half life: alyx was customized for virtual reality from the beginning. VR is built to present the core game playing methods of half life. Players can immerse themselves in deep environmental interaction, solve puzzles, and explore the world. Half life: alyx can be said to be the benchmark of VR games, representing the highest level that VR games can achieve at this stage, or laying the basic form of VR games in the next few years. The game adds a game interaction scene that is far beyond the previous game design, which can not be achieved by using the keyboard and mouse and the handle, simplifying and streamlining the shooting action. "Half life: alyx" is strictly the first 3A masterpiece dedicated to VR, which is a milestone for the VR game industry.

Half life: alyx game scene

Founder of valve: metauniverse is not an innovative thing

On March 3, 2022, Gabe Newell, the founder of valve, expressed his views on the metauniverse in an interview with PC gamer. He believed that most people did not know what they were talking about when talking about the metauniverse. In addition, Gabe Newell believes that the game industry has long been exploring technologies similar to the meta universe, such as virtual images, open worlds, social networking and other ways of playing that can be customized in some MMO games. After all, pinching a virtual avatar avatar online is something that we could have done a dozen years ago, not a new invention. In this way, the metauniverse is not an innovation. He believes that many yuan universe hype is just a method of getting rich quickly strategy seen by outsiders, and it is just a profit tool for businessmen. Many people will invest in metauniverse during the boom of metauniverse. But in the long run, the tide of the meta universe will eventually pass, and the world will return to rationality. He believes that in the long run, metauniverse will eventually overcome technical difficulties, and eventually consumers will begin to consume. Maybe in the future, metauniverse will incubate valuable products.

For blockchain, Gabe Newell believes that blockchain is indeed a great technology, but it is still very rough at present. At present, many meta spaces are just fake "second life" game based on blockchain, and even think that some commercial brands are stupid to buy virtual real estate with millions of dollars. But real video games have existed for decades, and can provide more fun than these meta universe virtual worlds on the market today. Gabe Newell is not completely opposed to the meta universe, but also expects that technology and the meta universe can help realize the integration of virtual and real society, but he doesn't agree that the meta universe has become an overly touted thing that even seems to make people make quick money.

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