The year was 2016 and it was the start of a glorious new age in videogame technology. No, not another console refresh cash-in but an actual shift in how we interact with virtual worlds. I’m speaking, of course, about the launch of consumer virtual reality (VR). We all know VR has existed for decades in one form or another but in the early 2010s there was a renewed vigor for the technology. And that birthed two PC VR headsets, the Oculus Rift – released in March 2016 – and the HTC Vive – released in April 2016. However, the HTC Vive had one ace up its sleeve, motion-tracked controllers. Geared towards those who wanted to play VR games, considering recent events has HTC Vive left consumer VR behind?
Bye bye Cosmos
The last proper consumer VR headset from the company was the Vive Cosmos. Launched in 2019, the modular device did not have a great start in life. Namely thanks to its ropey inside-out tracking that required perfect lighting conditions to operate. This was rectified in subsequent updates but the damage was done.
Vive Cosmos was also competing against the cheaper Oculus Rift S and the more expensive Valve Index. HTC Vive then followed up with Vive Cosmos Elite with its SteamVR-tracking faceplate. This didn’t help since it was almost Valve Index money, which XR Source still considers the best VR headset for PC VR gaming.
Now a recent report by Road to VR highlights the discontinuation of Vive Cosmos in the US, leaving only its Vive XR Elite and Vive Pro 2 as its main gaming devices. Both of which are enterprise-focused products. It’s worth pointing out that Vive Cosmos is still directly available in European markets and further afield but how long will that last?
A useful metric to look at is the Steam Hardware Survey which shows you which and how many (in percent) VR headsets are connected. For June 2023 Meta Quest 2 continues to hold a massive lead at 42%. Next up you have Valve Index at just over 18%. All HTC Vive headsets only account for 6% of players.
HTC Vive welcomes enterprise VR
The company has had far better success pivoting towards enterprise VR. This started with devices like the Vive Pro (2018), Vive Pro 2 (2021) and then the Vive Focus standalone series. 2023 then saw the arrival of Vive XR Elite ($1,099.00 USD/£1,299.00 GBP) – followed by the Vive XR Elite Business Edition – the flagship mixed reality headset to rival Meta Quest Pro.
That’s quite the product lineup, especially when you add in software initiatives like Vive XR Suite and VIVERSE. But all of these are high-end products, the Vive Pro 2, for example, is $1399/£1399 for the full kit. General gaming folk aren’t that interested in VR to fork out that sort of cash, even if XR Elite or Pro 2 can still play SteamVR games perfectly well.
What about Vive Flow you say? It might be $499 but the sunglasses-like Vive Flow is more of a wellness device than a gaming platform. You can stream apps from your phone to it but you’re not going to play Half-Life: Alyx on it.
But we still hold HTC Vive dear in our hearts, because what the company does really well is innovate. All of these products are trying to push VR forward in a meaningful way. This is further exemplified by devices such as the Wrist Tracker, the 3.0 Tracker, the Face Tracker and the Wireless Adapter. Get all that hooked up and you’re in VR nirvana!
Nowadays, in XR Source’s opinion if you want to play VR games then HTC Vive isn’t the way to go.
What do you think, has HTC Vive left consumer VR behind? Let us know in the comments below.