It was just last month that the American video game developer and distributor Valve said that its definition of virtual reality's (VR) success entails supporting VR developers, and earlier today at the Vision VR/AR Summit in Hollywood, California, the company started putting its money where its mouth is. Specifically, Valve announced a new partnership with Unity Technologies, the developer of one of the most popular licensed game engines on the planet which currently has over 4.5 million of registered users. The main result of this collaboration will be manifested in Unity's native support for SteamVR technology responsible for the upcoming HTC Vive headset, which Valve designed as an open platform and a direct competitor to Facebook's Oculus VR.
The support will come at no extra cost to developers who are currently paying $75 per month for the so-called 'Pro' version of Unity engine at most. In addition to that, Valve has developed a VR rendering plug-in that'll be included in the engine and enable "enhanced performance and fidelity" of VR games created within it. It's still not clear when will these new features be included in Unity, but the wording of the announcement makes it sound like it shouldn't be too long.
While it does comes as a bit of a surprise, this move actually makes a lot of sense for both Valve and Unity. Specifically, pretty much the entire video game industry agrees that VR is the next big things and that it's only a question of time when everyone will own a VR headset which they'll use for playing games and experiencing other forms of entertainment. The only question is – whose technology will prevail in the end. So, by partnering with Unity, Valve gets to push its platform in the hands of millions of developers experimenting with VR who aren't too keen on paying for new development tools. Similarly, Unity gets to offer native support for a virtual reality platform which none of its competitors are currently offering to its existing user base, while also gaining a possibility to attract a few extra customers who are looking into both VR development and a new game engine and aren't too keen on paying separately for both. In any case, it'll be interesting to see whether this announcement spawns a brand new batch of SteamVR games made in Unity in the not too distant future, as well as how the competition will react to this partnership.