Valve releases “SteamVR” beta for virtual reality gaming

Steam’s annual developer conference, Steam Dev Days, doesn’t start until tomorrow, but the gaming company has already dropped a nice nugget of information ahead of the event. Monday night, the company released SteamVR, the rumored virtual reality experience¬†designed to take advantage of the budding virtual reality gaming sector — led by the Oculus Rift.

Currently, the Steam Platform has 14 games available with VR support, including the free-to-play shooter (and Oculus Rift demo vehicle)¬†Team Fortress 2. All games are accessible via an implemented filter in Steam’s search, and are played through the new “Big Picture + VR” mode found in the beta Steam client that comprises the bulk of SteamVR.

Valve’s casual drop of the software it plans to use with VR means that rumors continue to swirl around whether the company will unveil its own hardware option during the conference. The company continues to share a tight bond with the folks at virtual reality hardware developer Oculus VR, who had a smashing CES 2014 and unveiled their latest prototype, Crystal Cove, to the world. Right now, all the VR momentum is in Oculus’ hands, but Valve has a unique position, with the imminent release of its Steam Machines, to create a smart all-in-one package.

No doubt more will be unveiled tomorrow as Steam Dev Days gets fully underway, including a better idea of how the company plans to support VR software and VR-only games. Until then, 2014 is shaping up to be an ideal opportunity for VR to finally exert its power as a compelling and entertaining game experience.