Fans want Half-Life: Alyx on PSVR 2 — will Valve and Sony find a way to make it happen?
A rumor this week claims Sony bought the rights to have it published in 2023 but not at the headset’s launch. However, UploadVR has yet to hear anything substantive from either our own sources or news outlets with a well-known track record for accurate reporting. Given the difficult nature of game development and complex behind-the-scenes deal-making inherent to the industry, anything less than direct or multi-source confirmation should be paired with a large degree of skepticism.
If Valve and Sony make it happen, though, the move would bring one of VR’s most supremely polished titles to a new set of VR gamers who bought a PS5 and PSVR 2 headset rather than a PC and PC VR headset. While Quest gamers with a gaming PC have been able to enjoy Half-Life: Alyx since its release in early 2020 via Steam, the PlayStation Store also carrying Valve’s only fully-fledged title built from the ground up for VR would be a major win for gamers buying into Sony’s ecosystem.
Priorities & Partnerships
PlayStation VR2 launches in early 2023 and Sony has only just begun to unveil the upcoming games lineup they’re bringing to the system. We went hands-on with PSVR 2 recently and were impressed by its considerable leaps forward over the first generation device from 2016. Featuring new controllers with resistive triggers and a familiar button layout as well as eye tracking and even vibration inside the headset itself, Half-Life: Alyx would seem a match made in heaven for Sony’s system.
For example, Half-Life: Alyx features gravity gloves that let you pull faraway objects closer to you as well as threatening head crabs hiding around many corners. Both features ignite imaginations with how they could be implemented on Sony’s hardware. Eye-tracking, for instance, could assist with the gravity gloves by making the targeting of those objects more accurate. Theoretically, players would less frequently pull the wrong object toward themselves. And the headset’s haptic feedback might let you actually feel a head crab latching onto your skull. Still, there are a few obstacles to overcome in making the dream happen.
Valve is a remarkably small company that’s incredibly profitable on a per-employee basis. Management employs a flat structure in which employees move between teams when they want. Gathering support for projects you want to work on, though, could also be a herculean effort with difficulties of scaling and prioritization pressing against the need to execute in a Valve-timely manner. In recent months, Valve’s been focused on expanding its support to the Steam Deck handheld even as the Valve Index VR headset continues to be one of Steam’s highest selling products.
Valve’s head Gabe Newell described Valve’s Steam Deck PC handheld as “a stepping stone” to standalone VR while Greg Coomer at the company said its processor would work well in VR and “it’s very relevant to us and our future plans.” The company just caught up on pre-orders for Steam Deck and will bring its interface over to VR, but it remains a valid question of priorities and bandwidth whether there’s leeway to port a game of Half-Life: Alyx’s magnitude to Sony’s platform. That said, there are plenty of partners for Valve to consider for helping achieve its competing priorities and Half-Life: Alyx is likely near the top of a short list of titles that could convince players to get a PS5 and PSVR 2. The bigger question is still how porting to Sony’s console would fit into Valve’s long-standing effort to expand the market for PC gamers.
Half-Life: Alyx on Steam is also a portal to Steam Workshop and its community development tools. Community modders have used the tools to add significant new modes to the game alongside hours of new and well-conceived campaigning. The tools are a fundamental part of Valve’s offering to PC gamers — the community has even made VR mods for the original Half-Life and Half-Life 2 games for release on Steam. While mods aren’t necessary to Half-Life: Alyx they do dramatically expand the game’s appeal on PC and are likely at odds with Sony’s PS5 being a console with the only content available on it rigorously tested before release. Still, Valve has released its games without Steam Workshop support on competing platforms before, with the Portal games recently arriving on Switch and The Orange Box being one of the the best value-per-game packages ever released.
Does it make sense to drop Steam Workshop support for a console release of Half-Life: Alyx at the same time Valve could be expanding that reach onto handhelds? Probably — the efforts are likely not mutually exclusive — but there is still a larger platform war happening in the background of all this for the future of personal computing. Half-Life: Alyx is the tip of the spear when it comes to pushing some of the company’s key tooling into the future and there may be benefits to focusing the expansion of those tools on platforms where Valve controls the experience at every layer.